You get up in the morning, do your daily chores, take a bath, and then ‘print’ your breakfast. Yeah, you read that right. Very soon, we are going to be printing our food just like this pizza which the astronauts aboard the ISS will soon be eating.
The above images are of the Chef3D printer from BeeHex, a startup funded by a grant from NASA, the purpose of this invention was to create a way for astronauts to select and produce delicious food for themselves on missions.
The printer prints out the ingredients which takes about one minute and then you pop the pizza in a 400-degree oven for five minutes and lo and behold… your pizza is ready. Depending on the size, toppings, dough, and location, a Beehex pizza will cost anywhere from $8 to $15.
This is only one of the examples. However, printing something like a pizza is much easier said than done. Maintaining the pressure at the right level involves calibrating the printer to apply the appropriate amount of force to the food. This concept is extremely important for yeast dough, which expands as it prints. Particles must also be extremely small; even crushed herb flakes will clog the printer. In addition, controlling the texture of the food takes some trial and error for the perfect balance; for example, thickening agents such as xanthan gums are added to tomato sauce.
Lastly, the printer will not cook the food. Either the printed pizza is baked elsewhere, or the printer must be outfitted with a localized laser so that the pizza will bake as it prints. From restaurants to spaceships, many places can benefit from the versatility of printing food. Restaurants and food manufacturers can create countless diverse food products from a small number of ingredients. In addition, food in conjunction with software has created many new concepts, such as the idea of digital pantries. Digital pantries store online recipes made from a limited number of semi-liquefied ingredients; these recipes can then be recreated by others with a push of a button. 3D printers can also receive information about your health and use these data to print foods accordingly.
Food Printing vs Robotics-Based Food Manufacturing
Food printing and robotics-based manufacturing both automate a food preparation process and reduce human
workload, but they create totally different user experiences.
Printing food former places users’ creativity and control at the center of the process by allowing the users to manipulate food forms and materials directly, while robotics-based manufacturing of food aims to reduce human involvement and workload by automating various manual processes.
Robotics-based technologies aim to replace labor-intensive operations, to automate manual operations in household, food catering service, and food manufacturing industries. For example, for baking cookies, robots can locate ingredients, mix them in a correct order, and place the resulting dough in a baking tray.
Food printing is a digital food fabrication process integrating 3D printing and digital gastronomy technique to manufacture food pieces. It enables users to design and fabricate food with customized color, shape, flavor, texture, and even nutrition. As a result, their eating experiences take them beyond just taste to encompass all aspects of gastronomy such as food preparation, culture, economy, physics, and chemistry.
Food Printing Platforms
A food printing platform basically consists of an X-Y-Z three axis stage (i.e., a Cartesian coordinate system), dispensing/sintering units, and a user interface. With a computer controlled material feeding system, such platforms can manipulate food fabrication in real time.
The Choc Creator 2.0 Plus from Choc Edge is a simple, yet versatile desktop 3D chocolate printer. It is an upgraded version of Choc Edge’s Choc Creator 2.0 chocolate printer. It has a 30ml stainless steel syringe and printhead to ensure even heating throughout the head and easy cleaning.
FoodForm 3D is a dual paste extrusion machine from Robots in Gastronomy’s — a collective of chefs, designers and kitchen gear distributors. FoodForm, allows the user to print objects onto any surface. It can be “a heated cooking surface such as a grill or frying pan”, the serving plate, or, in the case of the ice cream, on a very cold surface such as the Polyscience Anti-Griddle.
Headquartered in Barcelona, Natural Machines, a food-tech company
has developed a food 3D printer, Foodini which can accommodate an infinite variety of fresh ingredients. Foodini is a new generation kitchen appliance promoting cooking with fresh ingredients and healthy eating through the use of food-grade/safe
materials. It comes equipped with five re-usable, stainless steel food capsules that enable you to print an unlimited amount of ingredients and prepare all sort of dishes. The open capsule model to consumers to place fresh ingredients into their printer instead of being forced to buy pre-packaged food capsules.
3D Systems’s ChefJet and ChefJet Pro are 3D printers that print real, edible, delicious candies of varying shapes and sizes. The ChefJet uses a combination of sugar and water that actually creates a sugar frosting in real time, albeit as slowly as is expected from a 3D printer. The company recently announced an a new partnership with CSM Bakery Solutions, a large provider of baking ingredients, supplies and technologies.
Today’s fast growing global population has growing demands for food. Alternative ingredients extracted from algae, fungi, seaweed, lupine, and waste from the current agricultural and food production can be utilized as printing materials in the future and ease the growing demand for food production in an environmentally friendly and efficient manner. 3D printed meat could provide high-quality proteins without increasing stress on arable land or fishing farm. A US startup called “Modern Meadow” is working on a technique to 3D print meat, without having to slaughter an animal at all.
3D printed food could enable us to reinvent our culinary ways on many levels, from texture to shape and artistic vision. The new technology also offers many possibilities to make the consumption of products like meat more sustainable and by introducing new ways of preparing a meal.
The possibilities are endless and are sure to continue to surpass our expectations in the future to come.