It’s 2015, and after many years of being priced beyond most people’s reach, 3D printing is quickly becoming accessible to wide audience. In fact, consumer grade 3D printing gains popularity so fast that various companies are trying to print virtually everything, including food.
Remember replicators from Star Trek and many other similar fictional machines from various science fiction movies, which cook meals on command? Well, this could actually be our future. As we’ve discussed previously, 3D printing has the potential to revolutionize many industries, and food industry is one of them. Here 3D offers boosting culinary creativity, nutritional customizability and food sustainability, but it still faces some technical and market barriers and it will be some time before food 3D printing will stop being something exotic.
Most food 3d printers use extrusion deposition modeling technology, which means they extrude material through a nozzle (or, maybe, a few of them), laying it down in a predefined pattern so as to create the desired shape, layer by layer.
The 3D systems’ ChefJet food 3D printer crystallizes fine-grain sugar into virtually any geometric shape, Foodini uses freshly mushed food ingredients loaded into capsules to print a surprisingly wide array of dishes and Natural Foods’ Choc Edge lays down chocolate in beautiful patterns.
Although at the present stage food 3D printing is mostly about printing candies, pizza and decorating cakes, there are quite a few examples of fully 3D printed meals and courses. For example, Michelin-starred Chef Mateo Blanch from La Boscana, Spain, created the first 3D printed 5-course meal on the 3D Printshow 2015 in London. The lunch and dinner menu consisted of a starter snack of caviar cookies with strawberries and lemon, followed by a dish of guacamole and hummus. The main course menu offered a choice between a Framed octopus (octopus framed with potatoes) and Aprese pasta with pesto and basilicum. As for dessert, there was the word “London” printed in chocolate and a Carpaccio Target (a strawberry and jelly carpaccio).
Another example of the early adopters: some Geman nursing homes now serve 3D printed food called Smoothfoods to elderly residents who have difficulties in chewing. Purees (the conventional alternative) usually aren’t very appetizing, which often leads to under eating. The tastier Smoothfoods made of mashed peas, broccoli and carrots, which 3D printers congeal with edible glue, already are a hit with over 1,000 of the country’s facilities currently serving them daily.
Using non-specialized consumer 3D printers in the kitchen
Currently, most consumption grade food 3D printers are costly and not very functional (though it will certainly change in the nearest future), but there are quite a few ways to use a non-specialized consumer 3D printer in the kitchen. For example, you could 3D-print a mold and use it for casting all kinds of food stuff.
You could also 3D print various tools and utensils that would make the process easier and more fun.
There are virtually no limits to how one could use a 3D printer in the kitchen. Using imagination, it is possible to come up with lots of great ideas. One great example is the animated Transformers-themed birthday cake we wrote about earlier.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, let me know in the comments section.