Editorial Feature

Is 3D Printing the Future of Our Food Supply?

Following the introduction of microwaves in 1946, most people were extremely unwilling to use the microwave, however, its progressing versatility has allowed this device to become almost a necessity in many households around the world.

Despite the 3D printing industry experiencing a similar initial reaction in their current development of 3D printed food, those at the forefront of this advancement are hopeful that its practicality will once again change public opinion.

It is estimated that approximately 90% of households in the United States own at least one microwave, making this device one of the most common and popular kitchen applications.

In January 2014, American manufacturer 3D Systems was the first company to develop the first 3D printer capable of having edible food as their products. The “ChefJet,” which originally retailed at $5,000 at its worldwide début at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, utilizes an ink jet print head that is almost identical to what you would find in the average desktop printer1.

Just as any 3D printer layers its ink to create a 3D object, the ChefJet continuously layers an extremely fine layer of sugar that is followed by a layer of water, which is used to recrystallize and harden the sugar to ensure the structural stability of the finished product.

Since its introduction to the marketplace, the ChefJet has inspired various other 3D printing companies to develop devices that are capable of printing different types of food products in a fast and efficient manner. Of these include Foodini, a 3D food printer produced by Barcelona-based company, Natural Machines. Starting at a projected retail price of $1,000, the Foodini is capable of printing a diverse variety of food products including burgers, pizza, detailed cake decorations, filled pasta and numerous others.

To do so, the Foodini squeezes out edible ingredients that are encapsulated in stainless steel ink jets2. While the products created by the Foodini must be cooked after the printing process is completed, however, Natural Machines is hopeful that they will be able to develop a device that can also incorporate a model that is able to cook the 3D printed product for immediate consumption.

To further the prospective reality of 3D printed food, the non-profit meat research organization Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has recently introduced the possible reality of 3D printed beef products. By using a 3D printer developed by the Dutch printing company byFlow, the MLA condensed secondary cuts of beef, or what is typically thought of as lower value meat, into an ink jet that squeezes out thin slices of meat that can eventually become hamburgers, steaks and other beef products3.

It is currently estimated that one third of every animal that is used to produce burger and steak products is used as trimmings for lower quality meat products. By taking these lesser-valued trimmings and converting them into a 3D printable form, the MLA believes that farmers’ profits will greatly benefit from this added technology.

The work performed by MLA in conjunction with byFlow is hopeful that “bio-synthesized” meat could also be 3D printed, which could greatly decrease the amount of animals required to produce beef and steal products around the world. The term bio-synthesized meat is used to describe a product that is developed from a petri dish in which chains and peptides and other non-organic materials are eventually grown to eventually become liquids that can be transmitted into 3D printed products.

While 3D printing technology is not expected to completely replace and eradicate our normal ways of obtaining food products and our home-cooked meals, its potential for applications in the culinary and agricultural fields shows promise. By simultaneously reducing the labor, costs and product loss that is often associated with traditional farming and culinary endeavors, the 3D printing of food products offers these industries a sustainable option that is beneficial for both the company and the consumer.

Image Credit:

Alex_Traksel/ Shutterstock.com            

References:

  1. “The Sugar Lab by Kyle and Liz von Hasseln” – Dezeen
  2. “’Foodini’ machine lets you print edible burgers, pizza, chocolate” – CNN
  3. “3D printed beef can create ‘more value’ for farmers, says Meat & Livestock Australia”www.3ders.org

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine; two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are used in anticancer therapy.

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Comments

  1. Dave Lewis Dave Lewis United States says:

    This article hits a point that really needs to be clarified. All of the printers mentioned print WITH food.

    When you use chocolate as a print media, you are not making anything new, you are simply using it as the design media.

    Same thing for "printing a burger" which uses meat paste.

    Printing food is going to require combining amino acids and other base stocks to really create food.

    And that may be coming. People with Crone's disease may see huge benefit in custom tailored "food" that meets their specific needs.

    Right now we print with food.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoM.com.

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