Everything You Need To Know About 3D Printed Food
As 3D printing technology develops, more and more innovative uses are being found for these machines. The latest trend, 3D printed food, is taking the world by storm. But how is it done? And is it safe?
The concept of 3D printed food may seem abstract, but consider the pizza vending machines that made headlines in 2015. They prepared dough, extruded it and topped it with tomato sauce and cheese before sending it to the oven – all within a single machine. This could be seen as an early form of 3D printing food.
Nowadays, we have restaurants dedicated to this technology and many types of food 3D printers on the market. It is widely believed that soon enough many kitchens will be equipped with their own 3D printer for cooking purposes. In this article, let’s take a look at what exactly goes into creating 3D printed meals: from the way it’s done to the benefits.
How Is Food 3D Printed?
3D food printers are mostly used for creating complex shapes and patterns, rather than actually cooking the ingredients. Generally speaking, the edibles are either ready to eat or will need to be heated up in an oven (or on a grill) once they have been printed out. However, there is an exception – the PancakeBot. This machine only produces pancakes which it extrudes onto a hotplate; all that’s left is for someone to flip them over!
The technology of 3D printing food is quite similar to that of regular FDM 3D printing, in the sense that a viscous material is laid down on a surface to create an object. Although research has been conducted with other additive processes such as binder jetting and SLS utilizing powdered foodstuffs, it remains uncertain if these techniques are suitable for food printing or not.
At the same time, there is an emerging market for both professional and prosumer machines designed specifically for FDM-like food printing. Generally speaking, this process involves feeding raw material into a syringe-like container which then extrudes it while the nozzle moves around tracing shapes and forming 2D layers one at a time.
The Benefits of 3D Printed Food
Exploring further possibilities of 3D printing, some researchers are aiming to utilize biomaterials and animal stem cells in order to create 3D printed meat. These scientists emphasize the significant amount of resources required for traditional livestock-based meat production and suggest that food 3D printing could be a viable solution to meet the demands of an ever-increasing global population.
Not only that, but researchers are looking into 3D printed food as a solution to the issue of feeding astronauts on space missions. 3D printing is a highly advantageous technology for the production of various items with minimal raw material usage. This makes it an ideal option to provide sustenance to astronauts on extended space voyages, as edibles can be stored in special plastic bags for up to 30 years.
Through 3D printing food, it is possible to precisely regulate the diversity and amount of nutrients, vitamins, and calories per meal. This could be especially beneficial in hospitals where restricted diets are more frequent and would allow for easy personalization of meals for patients.
At SXSW 2014, Oreo chose to demonstrate the power of 3D printing technology by allowing customers to customize their own cookie creations with a choice of cream colors. This was an effective way for Oreo to showcase how 3D printed food can be used as a marketing tool and enhance customer satisfaction.
Moreover, exchanging recipes can be done with ease by transferring a digital file over the internet; all that is needed are compatible printing equipment as well as the same raw materials and settings.
Revo Foods, an Austrian start-up, is striving to put a stop to overfishing by creating plant-based seafood alternatives. Their first product, Revo Salmon, has already been distributed in more than 15 European countries and was presented at the “Have a Taste of the Future” tasting event in Vienna in June of 2022. Their innovative products all developed with the help of FDM 3D food printing technology.
3D printed food technology has the ability to transform the food and agriculture industries for the better, as it has other industries such as architecture. If utilized to its full extent, it could make a massive difference in food waste, environmental impacts from traditional agriculture methods and the availability of resources for the global population.
As we can see in the above article, many businesses are already implementing 3D printing into their food production processes. We will doubtlessly see much more of this trend in the coming years as technology develops and information on its benefits and uses spreads.