CTRL+ALT+P…here comes your dinner!
When you think of eating a well-balanced, homemade meal full of fresh ingredients the last word that comes to mind is technology. Today, culinary experts are exploring how food can be… printed! Is it possible to print food that is fresh and tasty? Will our kitchens soon be equipped with printers?! Where is this new technology headed?
At D2D, we are constantly intrigued by the important role technology plays when bringing fresh food to your dinner table. We have discussed hydroponic farming in “Meet the ‘Ponics”— local, fresh greens are being grown in urban environments. We explored meat that is now being created in a lab without a live animal (in “A New Burger”). And now, we are shining a light on the future of 3D food.
Imagine this: You are enjoying your morning cup of coffee and lightly stirring it with a straw— not a plastic straw, but a 3D straw made from one your favorite sugar sweeteners! This edible straw dissolves perfectly into your warm mug as you enjoy your caffeine fix.
And the possibilities don’t end there… maybe you attend a wedding where a detailed 3D replica of the happy couple is featured on each slice of cake.
Or perhaps you want to try insect protein but are a bit reluctant. Well, with 3D printing technology, you can pour the insect powder into the printer with some chocolate and create a yummy chocolate grasshopper snack.
What is 3D printing?
Traditionally, food shapes are made on the assembly line with a specific mold. Therefore, changing the shape means changing the entire assembly line. Printing out a variety of food shapes through a software program makes creating the final product easier and (eventually) faster. At the moment, the main limitation of 3D printing is speed. It takes anywhere from 2-4 minutes to print out a shape. And while this might not seem like a lot of time, if you are trying to mass produce a product it is both time consuming and inefficient to wait 4 minutes for 1 item.
Novelty shapes and various textures
“3d printing in food is opening up a whole new world of creativity where it will become the medium where I can bring his new food concepts ideas to life that prior were not able to be done or certainly not able to be done so quickly.”
“It is all about design and texture,” said Callahan. “Everyone is looking for something different to make food fun and exciting to eat.”
His relationship with 3D printing began with a simple idea: completely edible chicken wings. Peter started to think about how to make a truly bite sized chicken wing…and that brought him to 3D printing. “What if we incorporated 3d printed ‘chicken bones’ made of hot sauce or blue cheese?” This would add novelty as well as instant flavor to the chicken wings. Can you imagine? Being able to pop a whole chicken wing in your mouth with the blue cheese built right in! It is this kind of creativity that will drive the future of 3D printed food.
3D printers can print out designs and shapes that are unattainable with traditional molds.
Large scale food producers are also creating unique shapes to distinguish themselves from the competition. For instance, Barilla pasta has collaborated with TNO, the Dutch Research Center, to print 3D pasta. By replacing the “ink cartridge” with dough, unique shapes can be printed out in under two minutes. And that isn’t the only advantage to printing rosette or star shaped pasta.
Pepsi Co has patents on not only the design of the Deep Ridge potato chip, but also the cutter and the ‘mouth’ experience. Source
Video: Hershey can print chocolate in almost any shape.
3d Printers and Customized Personal Nutrition
Lipson sees 3d printing as the ‘output device’ for data-driven nutrition and personal health, akin to precision medicine, with huge potential for a profound impact.”
Jeffrey Lipton, a professor with M.I.T, and formerly of Cornell Creative Machines Lab, and Hod Lipson, an engineering professor at Columbia University, are pioneers in 3D printed food. Lipson is currently working on food that cooks while it prints. Early on, Lipton and Lipson went from 3D printing any material to foods such as Nutella and Easy Cheese. They then took it to the next level and asked themselves, “What would happen if you bring software and robotics into something as basic as cooking? The opportunities are there for the ability to control nutrition and creating new and novel food items you can’t create any other way.”
“3D food printing offers revolutionary new options for convenience and customization, from controlling nutrition to managing dietary needs to saving energy and transport costs to creating new and novel food items,” said Lipson.
Looking forward, the customization of specific nutritional needs could be done through 3D printed food. This sounds farfetched, but think of the personalized data we collect with Fitbit, Whoop, and 23 and Me. Let’s say you also have access to your blood panel profile from your Doctor. Combine that with your biometrics such as body composition, caloric intake, and daily workout routine – input into a program, which then feeds the 3D printer with your exact caloric and nutritional needs. Voila – out prints a perfectly formed tasty cookie with just the right vitamin profile for you.
3d Printers Can Meet the Nutritional Needs of the Elderly or those with Dysphagia
3D printing for the Military
3D food in Space
What does the future hold?
The Bottom Line:
Revolutionary technology in the kitchen has not progressed much past the microwave. Let’s see if 3D printed food will take us to the future of the Jetsons. In the meantime, look for 3D food in restaurants, in space, in the military, and visiting retirement homes.
Dizon, Jan. “Hershey’s 3D Printer Lets You Print Any Object You Desire With Chocolate.” Tech Times. Tech Times, 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
Evarts, Holly. “Dinner in 3D.” The Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science – Columbia University. Columbia University, 28 July 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
“HERSHEY AND PEPSICO USED 3D PRINTING TO MAKE FOOD.” Indovance.com. Indovance, 15 Oct. 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
Hollander, Sophia. “What Are You Printing for Dinner?” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 09 June 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
“Introducing: Foodini.” Natural Machines. New Possibilities Group LLC, n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
Lipton, Jeffery, Dave Arnold, Franz Nigl, Nastassia Lopez, Dan Cohen, Nils Noren, and Hod Lipson. “MUTLI-MATERIAL FOOD PRINTING WITH COMPLEX INTERNAL STRUCTURE SUITABLE FOR CONVENTIONAL POST-PROCESSING.” Cornell University. Cornell Computational Synthesis Lab, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, n.d. Web.
McCue, Matt. “Will 3D printed food become as common as the microwave?” Fortune.com. Fortune, 26 Feb. 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
Pearse, Damien. “Transforming mealtimes with 3D-printed food.” Horizon: the EU Research & Innovation magazine. European Commission, 07 Apr. 2014. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
Sun, J., Zhou, W., Huang, D. et al. Food Bioprocess Technol (2015) 8: 1605. doi:10.1007/s11947-015-1528-6