People with a sweet tooth may need some unusual printer supplies in future if a prototype 3D printer that creates chocolate shapes is brought to market.

Researchers at the University of Exeter developed the machine, which can create personalised shapes and intricate sculptures out of the cocoa products.

While it is still currently at the prototype stage, it is thought the device will eventually be used commercially to create personalised gifts for consumers.

Leader of the team Dr Liang Hao explained: "What makes this technology special is that users will be able to design and make their own products. In the long term it could be developed to help consumers custom-design many products from different materials."

He suggested that in the future, technology such as this could see many mass-produced goods replaced by unique designs that are created for the specific requirements of the customer, adding that the materials the printer can be adapted to work with are not limited to chocolate.

Another designer to explore the potential of 3D printers was Markus Kayser, who invented a machine that uses solar rays to turn sand into glass objects, reported.