3D Food Printing

Can you imagine being able to make food from a printer? Not only make it but being able to cook it as well with just the touch of a screen? Yes it sounds like an episode from The Jetsons.

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However this is new technology is happening in 2017!

According to 3D food printing company Natural Machines, this concept is not far from becoming a reality. Others, such as pizza printing specialist BeeHex, believe it is a matter of years before it becomes a common feature of not only the home, but in restaurant kitchens and commercial enterprises as well.

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Natural Machines’ Foodini.
Image: Natural Machines
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Foodini at La Boscana, Spain.
Image: Natural Machines

THE BASICS OF 3D FOOD PRINTING

Most 3D food printers are deposition printers, meaning they deposit layers of raw material in a process known as additive manufacturing. A newer category of 3D printer — binding printers — adhere materials together with a kind of edible cement.

The latest generation of 3D food printers is much more complicated, combining nozzles, powdery material, lasers, and robotic arms to make sugar sculptures, patterned chocolate, and latticed pastry. One printer, the ChefJet from 3D Systems, crystalizes thin layers of fine-grain sugar into a variety of geometric configurations. Another, the Choc Edge from Barcelona-based Natural Foods, dispenses chocolate from syringes in beautifully melty patterns.

Cutting-edge printers can tackle even more. The Foodini, for example, uses fresh ingredients loaded into stainless steel capsules to make foods like pizza, stuffed pasta, quiche, and brownies. Pasta-maker Barilla’s machine prints noodles with water and semolina flour. And a prototype design by Hod Lipson, a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia, fabricates nutrition bars and simple pastries.

FOOD PRODUCTION

Already, commercial kitchens, bakeries, and confectionaries are using 3D food printers to save time and effort.

Hervé Malivert, director of food technology and culinary coordinator at the International Culinary Center, said the technology’s democratizing. “With a 3D printer, you can print complicated chocolate sculptures and beautiful pieces for decoration on a wedding cake,” he told Digital Trends. “Not everybody can do that — it takes years and years of experience, but a printer makes it easy.”

Paco Pérez, the executive chef at two-Michelin-starred restaurant Miramar in Llançà, Spain, has already put that theory into practice. He uses a Foodini to “re-create forms and pieces” of food that are “exactly identical,” freeing line cooks to complete other tasks.

And he’s not the only one. Food Ink, a pop-up “3D-printed restaurant,” was constructed almost entirely with commercially available printers. Everything from the restaurant’s tables to its chairs and lamps were printed over the course of a week. And all of the entrees and desserts it served were 3D-printed, too; rather than farm to table, think of it as pixels to plate.

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There’s mass-market potential in 3D food printing. XYZprinting’s eponymous XYZ Food Printer, which the company unveiled at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is already making ready-to-bake cookies, pizza, meat pies, and scones for bakeries in China and an Australian food retail chain.

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OBSTACLES

Despite the many recent advancements in 3D food printing, the industry has a myriad of challenges to overcome.

Currently, most ingredients must be converted to a paste before a printer can manipulate them, and the printing process is typically quite time-consuming. “Printing in food materials is a lot more difficult from an engineering point of view than plastic or metals,” Lipson said. “They interact with each other in very complex ways.”

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On top of that, most of the 3D food printers in existence are restricted to dry, shelf-stable ingredients, because most protein and dairy products have a spoilage risk. “Everything must be dry, because otherwise you’d have to worry about something going bad,” said Malivert. “It’s a question of health.”

Then, there’s the matter of expectations. “We need to be sensible about this,” Daniel Crossley, executive director at the U.K.’s Food Ethics Council, told Digital Trends. “We need to start with the problem we’re trying to solve and work backwards, and try to understand the social and health impacts of 3D food printing. I’m not a believer in novelty for novelty’s sake.”

Even some in the culinary world are skeptical. Tony Tantillo, food expert and contributor to CBS in New York, believes 3D food printers are better suited for fast food joints than homes and high-end restaurants. “Those two things shouldn’t be together,” he said in a recent interview. “‘Printed food’ for a magazine, yes. But to eat? Nah, nah.”

But times change. “When people first heard about microwaves, they didn’t understand the technology,” Lynette Kucsama, CEO and founder of Natural Machines, told Fortune. “Now, 90 percent of households have microwaves.”

(article via http://www.digitaltrends.com)

 

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