Primera Eddie, The Edible Ink Printer Review
Let’s start with a clarification: This product is not a high-tech Easy-Bake Oven, though it may look like one. It prints on cookies; it doesn’t print out cookies. (Though we eagerly await that 3D printing technology.) What Primera Technology’s Eddie is and does is simple. Technically known as “Eddie, The Edible Ink Printer” (seeing as we’re on a first-name basis), it’s a specialized inkjet that uses certified food-safe ink. It’s paired with a custom handling system that enables you to print on edible “media,” such as frosted sugar cookies, in bulk.
Primera is well known for its specialized inkjet printers, which include CD/DVD surface printers, as well as a variety of label printers. (If you can’t help but make the connection between cookies and CDs, you’re on the right track.) This unique inkjet works well for users who can afford its steep entry price ($2,995 for our test configuration), and it’s a treat to watch in action, too. And if you’re the enterprising type looking for a new side hustle selling custom baked goods, it could even be a money-printing machine.
It’s easy to think of Eddie as “the cookie printer,” but that’s not all it can do. My review was conducted using only white frosted sugar cookie blanks, some of which were provided by Primera, along with some additional blanks I purchased elsewhere. (Primera doesn’t sell the blanks itself, but they are easy to find on the internet.)
Cookies aren’t the only edibles Eddie is able to print on. With specialized trays (I only had the cookie tray shown in the images here), you can print edible images and sayings on other types of food, including macarons, donuts, and even cupcakes, as long as they adhere to the width, height, and other specifications dictated by the particular tray.
The tray holds the cookie or other edible in place; it is drawn by a feed mechanism into the body of the printer, which then performs a scan to determine that the cookie is correctly placed and centered, and adjusts accordingly. When the scan is completed, Eddie prints an image on the surface of the cookie or other edible. The Eddie group on Facebook is a great way of seeing some of the incredible edibles users are turning out, and it provides an excellent secondary route of support if needed.
The review unit I received from Primera Technologies was the “basic” Eddie printer. That consists of the printer, a three-color edible-ink cartridge, and a motorized turntable topped with a tray that holds 12 circular cookies. The Eddie can print on other frosted surfaces, but not with the standard tray. Also provided was a download link to the printer driver, and software for either the PC or a Mac, used to create and/or place an image on a template for printing.
On the PC, this software was a light version of Seagull Scientific’s BarTender labeling utility. (Mac software is also included.) Finally, a comprehensive manual for the printer, and in my case, the BarTender software, is available for download. Primera also provides excellent personalized support as part of the purchase price, but more on that a bit later.
The Eddie showed up in an imposingly large carton, filled with a bunch of smaller cartons. To say that it was well packed is a serious understatement. As shipped, even the most ham-handed delivery person is probably not going to do much damage, though it’s pretty heavy to lug around. Having a second person on hand to help will cut down the unpacking and assembling effort considerably.
That being said, my Eddie was unpacked, assembled, and print-ready inside about half an hour. As mentioned earlier, Eddie is primarily a carousel-driven inkjet printer. The manual’s assembly directions involve mounting the motor (for the cookie-blanks carousel) and plugging it into a connector on the rear of the printer, installing a crumb tray/filter and the ink cartridge (the latter much like on any other inkjet), and placing the carousel on top of the turntable.
The carousel has a maximum capacity of 12 cookies, though you can print fewer at a time, if you like. This carousel can accommodate round cookies with diameters between 2.5 inches and 3.85 inches, and you can also use it with other edible blanks, such as square and triangular-format cookies.
Removing the small triangular spacers on the carousel lets you print other forms of edibles, as well as round cookies from 3.5 to 4.375 inches in diameter and up to 2 inches in height. Special-purpose trays for other media and sizes are available from third parties. Primera’s documentation lists some of the edibles the Eddie is capable of printing, given the right tray: sugar cookies, macarons, graham crackers, marshmallows, cake pops, any shape of frosted cookie, white-chocolate-covered cookies, and more.
A quick glance at the Eddie Facebook group page will give you a good feel for some of the creative cookies users are turning out. A smooth or frosted top to your cookie is a prerequisite for our sample, but enterprising Eddie users have printed on rougher surfaces. It's all in the experimentation.
Once you have Eddie assembled, it’s time to connect the interface and install the driver and BarTender software. You can connect the printer by means of a direct USB wired connection, Wi-Fi, or Ethernet; the last is the method I used. Running the install utility, my PC immediately discovered Eddie on the network and the printer driver auto-installed.
The next step was to install the BarTender software, and this is where I ran into a roadblock. The BarTender software repeatedly crashed during installation. I suspect this was my fault for not understanding exactly what was being installed. BarTender is developed and documented by a third party, and it routinely installs a version of SQL, largely to keep track of templates and users. I have SQL installed on the system I was trying to install BarTender on, and a conflict with the existing copy of SQL is likely the reason for the failed installs. BarTender does give you the option of installing without SQL, and doing this worked out the install kinks, once I figured out that was the way to go.
Primera’s customer support is provided in real-time and by a trained and experienced support technician. Before I was able to figure out the install issue, they weren’t able to get me set up on the original PC despite several walkthroughs. The software kept crashing before finishing the install. In desperation, I pulled out a fairly new laptop, allowed remote access to the tech, and in a few minutes was up and running. Still, that’s impressive support.
Primera provides software to actually compose the image that will be sent to the printer. Both of the graphics/composition utilities have been developed by third parties and are available for download from Primera's website. For a Mac user, the software provided is Swift Publisher, from BeLight Software. For the PC, it’s the aforementioned BarTender. Both packages were originally designed to print on round labels or CD/DVD surfaces, not cookies. Still, the BarTender software, once installed, is easy to use.
You can also use pretty much any graphics software you have that can create an image that matches the cookie/edible blanks that you are using. In addition to BarTender, I printed cookies using Canva and Adobe Photoshop Elements, and had no trouble matching the format of the blanks and successfully printing cookies. The only thing to consider is the format of the image being used. For my testing, I used PNG images that were freely available for download on several sites. I also used a JPG image, dimensioned and cropped in Photoshop Elements, saved as a PNG, and printed using both Photoshop Elements and BarTender. If you feel comfortable using image editors, you’ll have no problem.
Even if you don’t have much experience in this area, the well-written and illustrated manual and online tutorials will make it easy to get your first cookies printed. And a selection of video tutorials is available for download. These will walk you through setting up the printer, maintaining it, and using BarTender to print your cookie. If that isn’t enough, Primera provides a one-hour person-to-person walk-through training session. If you are a bit hesitant about your ability to use the printer and software, I recommend you spend a little time with these tutorials.
The Eddie software for the PC consists of two separate sections. The Primera PrintHub is a central control and reporting utility, and it is automatically loaded each time you start the Eddie’s software. You can also manually load it from the Windows Start menu. It shows the printer status, how much ink remains, and the last several print jobs, along with the calculated price per print job. It also provides the capability of tweaking the alignment settings, as well as ordering new print cartridges. Primera estimates that an ink tank should be good for around 1,400 to 2,700 3.5-inch cookies, but that will vary very much accord to the surface area (the "cookie coverage"?) printed, the ink saturation levels chosen, and the like.
The ink tanks contain a food-safe tricolor combination of "ink" that is essentially food coloring and water. The cartridges are a steep $130 to $140 each direct from Primera. (Note that Primera offers US and EU versions of its ink tanks, with different compositions in line with American versus European approvals for certain colorants.) Those tanks may sound expensive, but given the yields projected from each tank, the cost of ink is likely negligible relative to the cost of the actual cookie, its frosting, and the labor to make them.
If you’re looking at Eddie as a business opportunity, the job price function is worth paying attention to. Primera gives an example of the cost estimator for printing a 3.5-inch round cookie with 50% coverage as approximately 6 cents per cookie. Other examples ranged from 5 cents per cookie for light coverage to 9 cents for full coverage. The cookie blanks I purchased were about $1.50 each, so depending on how many cookies you print, you can make a nice profit on a print job. Of course, with the printer costing $3,000, you will need a fair number of orders for a large number of cookies to offset the purchase price.
How does Eddie know how to print centered just right on media as irregular as cookies can be? If necessary, you can adjust the image alignment in the PrintHub utility, as shown above. You can also calibrate on the printer itself using the two buttons on the top front of the printer next to the print status LEDs. To calibrate, you press both buttons and hold for 3 seconds. Pressing these for just a moment puts the printer into demo mode, moving the cookies in and out of the printer and turning the carousel without actually printing on the cookie. PrintHub also allows you to manage multiple Eddie printers should you need more simultaneous production capability.
The second part of the software is the BarTender utility, which lets you compose the image that will be printed on the cookie. I found BarTender easy to use, and if you have any experience using graphics software such as Canva, Photoshop, or even Paint, you should have no problem getting up and running quickly.
You start with specifying a blank template (or a previous template, if you want to repeat a print job). Next, specify custom settings, and pick a so-called “paper size.” Expect to see a list of boilerplate sizes, but generally, you may have to add the diameter of the edible you are printing on. Once you get the size nailed down, you can specify a background color, and move the image you want to print onto the template. If your image contains a background, a tutorial in the manual explains how to remove it using Paint 3D. Also in the manual is a section on printing from other programs. I found it just as simple to print from Canva and Photoshop Elements as with BarTender. Once you are happy with the mocked-up result onscreen, you’re ready to print.
Load the carousel with cookie blanks, specify the number of cookies in BarTender, and hit the print icon. The Carousel can hold up to 12 cookies at a time, and will stop when the last cookie is printed so you can take the printed cookies from the carousel and reload it with fresh blanks.
I printed about 75 cookies for my review. One thing the manual doesn’t tell you is that when you order cookie blanks, you can’t assume they are the specified size. Mine were, but the blanks that Primera sent with the printer were a touch smaller in diameter than the ones I ordered on my own, and so the first few cookies I printed from my order of blanks had a non-printed ring around the edges, something I quickly fixed.
Another small problem I ran into was that not all of the cookie blanks were perfectly round. Some were noticeably elliptical. These led to some cookies printed with the image centered imperfectly. Depending on how many cookies exhibited this problem, one solution might be to pull these from the queue and readjust the size. Of course, if it’s only a very few cookies that are like this, you might just want to forgo using them or accept a few flawed cookies (though if you are charging a fair amount per cookie, you might want to save these not-so-round blanks to test new designs).
Finally, expect to tweak the saturation setting before printing in quantity. BarTender has a Vivid mode, and if you are printing cookies with colorful graphics, you can expect to use up a few blanks while you zero in on a suitable setting.
Obviously, the Eddie Cookie Printer is not for most casual users who will use it for a party now and then. It’s big and pricey and industrial. It’s targeted at those who will produce custom edibles in quantities great enough to justify the purchase price. This would include bakeries, event planners, and others who can successfully market the service. If you fall into that category, you’ll find the Eddie easy to use, and plenty fun once you get the hang of the software.
There are plenty of other whiz-bang automation tools to help you, the fledgling restaurateur, automate your business that are less expensive. For example, food-safe adapters for Cricut machines can also cut down on manual labor involved in selling custom edible goods, and will run you in the hundreds of dollars, not the thousands. (Cricut food solutions will cut out shapes or words, not print, though.)
Still, few of them are as fun as the Eddie is to watch in action. With that in mind: You could, indeed, make displaying the Eddie in a shop, a kiosk, or a showcase part of the sales pitch, and the appeal, of the finished product. The gee-whiz factor of the Eddie feeding cookies in and out could, in theory, help the cookies sell themselves as they’re being printed in public.
Looking to turbocharge your bakery’s dough—or seeking a sweet side gig? Primera’s Eddie prints excellent edible-ink images or messages onto cookies and other confections, at speed and in bulk.
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