3D printers can print almost anything, from figures to food. Most 3D food printers deposit layers of the ingredient through additive manufacturing. These machines are called deposition printers. Binding printers, on the other hand, stick materials together using edible cement.
The latest 3D food printers are more intricate. These machines combine robotic arms, powdery material, nozzles, and lasers to create patterned chocolate, latticed pastry and sugar sculptures. Cutting-edge 3D printers can make foods such as brownies, pizza, quiche and noodles. The user only needs to load fresh ingredients into a stainless steel capsule to produce the food he wants.
How Does a 3D Food Printer Work?
3D food printing is quite simple. You only need to fill up the syringe-like container of the 3D printer with a paste-type ingredient, and you can start printing food. The syringe-like container pushes the ingredient at a steady pace. It heats up the ingredient before printing it on a build plate.
Pancake batter, liquid sugar and chocolate pastes are the most common ingredients used for 3D printing, but you can also 3D print with pasta, cookie dough, grains, mashed potatoes, and dairy products. The ingredients should have some consistency and density to withstand various layers. For instance, you can 3D print molten chocolate because it hardens as it cools down. As such, it’s easy to make a customized chocolate dessert without altering the original taste of the chocolate.
Sugar is a flexible material that’s compatible with 3D food printing. It can take various colors and forms. In fact, some research groups have developed specialized 3D printers that can print candies and sugar with various 3D shapes. You can also make 3D models of your own using a 3D scanner and print it using edible food. This means that you can eat foods that look like you.
With 3D food printing, you can decide what the meal will look like. You can also modify the meals to specific nutritional requirements. 3D food printers are still expensive, so 3D food printing is done mostly by professionals at the moment.
What Foods Can You Print?
Any food can be printed as long as its ingredients are puréed. Remember that the ingredient has to be poured into a syringe-like container. 3D printed food is safe to eat as long as it’s been prepared with a clean and food-safe machine.
Such foods are basically edible ingredients that are processed in a manner that they can be extruded through a syringe-like container onto a surface. Hygienic standards should be observed. It is also important to keep the printer and your space clean.
Non-3D printed food and 3D printed food differ when it comes to texture. As mentioned earlier, 3D printed food should be in a form that is easily and quickly extruded. Printing 3D food takes a lot of time, so you should plan ahead if you are planning to make several dishes. 3D food printers, as of now, are not ideal for making quick snacks.
What are the advantages of Using 3D Food Printers?
3D food printers could help improve the way we prepare food. This kind of technology can be used to enhance the appearance, texture, and shape of food. It also offers a lot of possibilities to make food consumption more sustainable. 3D food printing has introduced a new way to prepare meals in space, which will make space travel more convenient and comfortable for astronauts.
Are There Any Downsides?
Reliability and speed are the most important components in regular 3D printing. 3D printing food adds two more components – safety and cost. Every 3D print should be precise. 3D printing food is capable of achieving the required tolerances, but it has limitations as well. It is time-consuming and chefs don’t have a lot of time to prepare food. 3D printing food is not ideal for mass production.
Specialized 3D food printers are not exactly cheap. You can save money by attaching a 3D printing food nozzle to a regular printer. However, only a specialized 3D food printer can give the best results.
Another important factor that you have to consider is safety. You don’t want to put your health at risk, and this means that you have to be careful with what you eat. All components of a 3D food printer should be food-safe and clean.
Are 3D Printed Foods Already Being Served?
Yes. One gourmet restaurant in the UK is serving 3D printed food. Food Ink’s enterprising entrepreneurs decided to try additive manufacturing, and thanks to that, everything in the restaurant is 3D printed such as their plates, chairs, utensils and tables.
A gourmet restaurant located in Spain also serves 3D printed foods. Miramar’s food printers do simpler tasks, allowing the restaurant’s chefs to focus on making creative cuisines. German nursing homes are already serving SmoothFood.
Older residents who have a hard time swallowing and chewing benefit from extruded foods. Potatoes, peas, pasta, pork, chicken, and other foods are cooked and pureed first. They are extruded then printed into identifiable shapes.
Aside from restaurants and nursing homes, NASA is also exploring the use of 3D printed foods. In 2013, NASA granted an SBIR Phase I contract to a company based in Texas so that they could look into the possibility of printing food for space missions using a modest-sized 3D printer. This could help astronauts transform bulk foods into delicious entrees that they will bring during space missions.
3D food printing is becoming more popular, and in the future, it may help feed the growing global population in a nutritious and sustainable manner. The population worldwide is expected to grow up to 9.6 Billion come 2050. According to some analysts, food production must be increased by 50% to sustain the needs of the global population.
Although 3D printing will not solve the problem, it could still help in dealing with this concern. It can also help users make visually appealing and appetizing food presentations. 3D printed foods are already being served in commercial kitchens and restaurants in some countries.