In a first of its kind of deal, candy kingpin Hershey (NYSE:HSY) has teamed up with 3-D printing powerhouse 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) to explore and develop ways to use 3-D printing in candy making. The two giants also have plans to develop and commercialize a new class of printers for 3-D printed edibles for the consumer and "prosumer" markets. With a globally recognizable brand like Hershey on board, it could certainly help 3D Systems' desire to mainstream 3-D printing.

Wasting no time
At the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas earlier this month, 3D Systems introduced the world's first line of 3-D printers for flavored sugars and chocolate, the ChefJet and ChefJet Pro. The ChefJet will retail for less than $5,000 and is able to 3-D-print monochrome flavored edibles in sugar and chocolate. The sub-$10,000 ChefJet Pro has the same capability but also borrows from 3D Systems' ColorJet printing technology, enabling full-color 3-D printed edibles.

3-D printed sugar cubes. Source: 3D Systems.

A common occurrence
Surprisingly, this isn't the first time that 3D Systems has been chosen to push the boundaries of 3-D printing. Back in November, Google's Motorola division announced a multiyear partnership with 3D Systems to help develop a "factory of the future" that utilizes multi-material 3-D printing and other advanced manufacturing processes for its modular and highly customizable smartphone concept, Project Ara. Because 3D Systems seems to regularly get these big-name partnerships, it demonstrates that it's a leader in the space and is well regarded in the industry.

Big possibilities
Now that the world has seen a glimpse of what's possible in the world of of 3-D printed edibles, a company with the legacy of Hershey has the potential to take this concept and really push it into the mainstream. I'm most excited to see what kind of 3-D printers these two develop for the consumer and "prosumer" segments, because it could create an entirely new market opportunity for both companies. Undoubtedly, with only sugar and chocolate on the table right now, the applications and possibilities do seem limited, but the reality is that we are only scratching the surface with 3-D-printed food.