INNOVATION TRENDS: 3D FOOD PRINTERS07/06/2023
3D printing became a buzzword a few years ago. The introduction of machines which could make 3D solid objects from computer-generated or digital files caught the world’s attention. Often referred to as additive manufacturing (AM), 3D printing technology has revolutionized the way we produce physical objects. Nowadays, the range of things produced via 3D printing is almost infinite. Yet, what happens when food gets involved in the equation?
3D food printing is about creating food products in a layer-by-layer approach, by depositing printing material held in food-grade syringes through food-grade nozzles. Recipes are loaded in 3D food printers and users can even design their food remotely: on their phones, computers and some IOT devices. Although at first 3D food printing could only make chocolate, dough, cheese and sugar sculptures, now pasta, plant-based meat and meals with custom nutrition can be produced. Today, 3D food printing even helps chefs to showcase their culinary expertise while enhancing the look of their dishes, so much so that even brand logos, text and signatures may be printed on foods.
Even though it may sound odd to have a machine produce your food, the advantages of using 3D food printers are rather interesting. By regulating individual nutrients’ proportions in a given dish, 3D food printing can easily personalize diets thus supporting not only disease prevention but also contrasting the declining interest in food generally shown by the elderly, by making nutritious food which they may find palatable. Even when they suffer from dysphagia and have difficulty swallowing, a 3D food printer can recreate the shape and visual appeal of all those foods they would usually have to eat mashed or pureed.
In times of war or in case of famine, 3D food printers can be used for humanitarian purposes as they can restore dehydrated foods to their original state with the addition of water and print them in a way that revives the appeal of the meal. Similarly, 3D food printers can support food waste control. Leftovers, such as seafood byproducts, off cuts of meat and misshapen fruits and vegetables can be put into the 3D food printer in order to gain a new shape that is both appealing and sustainable, thus limiting the amount of food that is left uneaten.
Surely, in a world that is trying hard to be as green as possible, the high energy consumption, the price of the printers, the need to pre-cook food and many other details still need to be optimized in order for 3D food printers to break into the market. Yet, as the demand for customized foods is set to rise in the future, 3D food printing is quite likely to have a bright future.