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)
1 part maltodextrin
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

12 Comments on T,T,TT. T,T,TTTTTT, Iced Tea Printing

  1. Austin says:

    Can you explain more about your “lab bench testing” to evaluate how the powder takes to your binders? What are you using to wet the powder/binder mixture? Just a spray bottle?

  2. ganter says:

    Austin, we hand spray various binders onto test powders. We have a variety of hand spray bottles with different orifice size and configurations. One of our students was know as the “print head” as she had the best technique for hand spraying.

    By bench testing new materials, we have found that we can explore as many as 20 new powder mixtures in a single day.

  3. Mike Keiderling says:

    Are you aware of the CandyFab project. They print in sugar by applying localized heat (hot air) to melt and caramelize the sugar thus producing 3D printed candy. Their site is

  4. admin says:

    Mike, yes we think candyfab is sweet BUT alas it seems sadly like not much has happened in candyland in almost two years. I predict that sweetened ice tea would make a great candyfab material.

  5. Yamima Wool says:

    According to your estimation, when we will be able to buy in a reasonable price a home use 3D printer?
    I am new to this topic and just read about it in Wikipedia and all I can say – Cool. Yet when everyday commercial implementation will be available. I found this one “RapMan 3.1 3D Printer Kit” on the Internet but I must say I never saw that in printers shop.

  6. admin says:

    If you look around on the web, they are several groups selling RepRap Mendel/Prusa kits. RapMan is a take off of the RepRap Darwin (with quite a few improvements). The Makerbot line has been available for several years. Don’t forget the fab-a-home. Bottom line is you will need to be very engaged to make these systems work. Low cost systems will often require a fair amount of babysitting to get acceptable prints.

  7. What binders did you have such great success with? And how much binder did you end up using?

  8. ganter says:

    KJS, please check out our post on Saturation. It describes how to determine proper saturation since it is a function of powder and weather.

  9. ViztuAsh says:

    Awesome work guys!!! Did you find that pineapple file on Thingiverse? I’m wondering if it’s the one we put up there that was
    created using XXXXX (shameless plug). Let me know when you get a chance!

  10. ganter says:

    Sorry XXXXX did not exist at the time this work was done. The students modeled it in another commercial package.

  11. […] Iced Tea and Bone? Two entries from Open3DP that make the strange category are iced tea and bone. Both examples have only been shown in the lab and are not commercial yet. […]

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