Thursday, December 4, 2014

Print Your Dinner

Cake topper printed on ChefJet Pro
Cake topper printed on ChefJet Pro
During the holiday season, family gatherings often include hours in the kitchen preparing the traditional holiday feast.  While electric mixers, food processors, pre-packaged dishes and modern stoves and ovens have greatly reduced the amount of time required to prepare a big meal, some wonder if we will soon reach the point where we can simply press a button and print dinner on a 3D printer.

The first course that will be able to be 3D printed will probably be desert. The crystalline nature of sugar allows it to work well in a powder bed printer using water as a binding agent. The ChefJet printer from 3D Systems uses this method to create beautifully complex confectionery that can be a delicate as a snowflake.  The ChefJet Pro goes even further by including color dyes in the binder enabling full color deserts.

Pizza printed on a Foodini printer.
Pizza printed on a Foodini printer.
Most of the rest of the engineering around 3D food printing involves extruding pastes to build up structures which would require cooking after printing. Since flour, tomato paste and cheese can all be formulated into pastes, pizza and pasta dishes are excellent candidates for printing. The Foodini 3D food printer in development by Natural Machines can print with all of these ingredients and many more including chocolate, chicken and chickpeas.

Printing a full turkey or a rib roast is unlikely to happen in the near future, if ever. But it won't belong before 3D printers sit next to the mixer and the microwave in a modern kitchen.

What would you like to print in your kitchen?

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