Every person who’s heard about 3D printing has thought ‘what if we could 3D print food?’. Today, this is no longer a question, but a reality.
What is 3D food printing?
The beginning of 3D printing in connection with food started by 3D printing molds and cookie cutters with standard FFF desktop 3D printers. However, these were printed in plastic, which arose some concerns in regards to health and safety.
The next step for food in 3D printing was printing the food itself.
3D food printing consists of extruding a food paste with a nozzle creating a shape layer by layer. It is essentially the same technique as FFF 3D printing, but the material being extruded is a food paste.
If you’ve been into 3D printing for a while, you may remember some add-ons and modifications. Those could be done to turn a desktop 3D printer into a 3D food printer. This would work, but could never deliver consistent and professional results.
Nowadays, there are 3D food printers that are specifically made for printing food. They provide a safe and healthy environment. However, it’s not yet possible to 3D print just any kind of food.
How does 3D printing food work?
To turn food into something printable, it needs to have a certain texture and viscosity. For this reason, it needs to be processed into something similar to a pureé.
The pureé, or food paste, is introduced in a capsule which is then placed in the printer. Then, a small press squeezes down the material out through the nozzle.
How to 3D print food
Apart from this, the process is the same as a standard 3D printer. Create or download a design, use a slicer software to make the model printable, and send it to the printer.
Is 3D printing food safe?
3D printing food in a standard printer may not be the best option as it will be in contact with other materials that aren’t food safe.
However, 3D food printing machines like the Foodini from Natural Machines are perfectly safe. There are only two parts of the machine that get in contact with the food: the stainless-steel capsules and the plate that serves as a print bed. This makes it also very easy to use and clean, being dishwasher safe.
3D food printer Foodini
What are the uses of 3D printing food?
The most obvious advantage of 3D printing food is, of course, the shapes you can create on a dish. This is great for top-notch restaurants and caterings, as it brings their dishes to the highest level when it comes to presentation and precision.
As not all chefs have 3D modeling knowledge, Foodini offers an easy solution. Users can select one of the recipe-designs preloaded on the machine. They can also make their own custom-made design with Foodini Creator.
Foodini Creator to print 3D food
As we have previously mentioned, 3D food printers work with food that has been processed into a paste.
While this could seem like a disincentive for some, it actually opens up an opportunity to be of great use in healthcare. 3D printed food can help people who suffer from dysphagia, a swallowing difficulty that one million people in Australia suffer.
Elderly residences are some of the first adopters of food 3D printers. They can now provide the elderly with more attractive looking dishes, in realistic shapes and textures.
Food 3D printed by Foodini
Foodini is the first choice for healthcare applications because it allows using real food. Once the fresh ingredients are processed as a pureé, they can be inserted in the empty capsule and it’s ready to print. Nonetheless, most 3D food printers will require specific pastes or will only admit the brand’s paste capsules.
The future of 3D printed food
3D printed food opens up many other possibilities. For instance, NASA is exploring how food 3D printers could improve the lives of astronauts during longer missions. As it allows to print the food on location, companies such as bakeries no longer need to worry about logistics and transport costs.
3D food printing can potentially reduce food waste and improve our diets. The not so good looking parts of the food are often discarded, but they could be well utilized for 3D printed food. Also, additional insect protein could be added to what we eat while still looking appealing.
The future of 3D food printing
All in all, the future of 3D printed food seems very promising and may have a considerable impact on what we eat, and how we eat.
Learn more about Foodini printers here.
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