If you’ve ever longed to give your best friend a piece of chocolate with the shape of her face on it for her birthday – take heart. 3D-printed food is now making it possible.
This article covers how 3D printed foods are created and explores some ways this new type of cuisine is already being used.
How 3D Food Is Created
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of creating three-dimensional objects from digital files. Objects are created one layer at a time, and 3D printers can create complex shapes relatively quickly (faster than many traditional manufacturing methods, in fact).
Most printers for 3D food use a similar technique to regular 3D printers. They deposit a food-safe 3D printer filament (like chocolate, tomato, or other flavors) onto a build plate based on a model you design yourself, or one that you download.
Have you ever put icing on a cupcake using a piping bag? Food printers work in a similar way. They deposit the edible filaments into your desired shapes, one layer at a time, creating a three-dimensional food model as it prints.
Is 3D Printed Food Safe to Eat?
In a word, yes. Food for human consumption must meet stringent federal safety requirements, and 3D food printers and edible filaments must follow those standards.
4 Exciting Use Cases for 3D Printed Food
Cruelty-free, environmentally-friendly meat: Redefine Meat and Novameat are working to develop 3D printed meat that mimics the taste, smell, and texture of real meat, using printable, plant-based materials. Novameat wants to start supplying national supermarkets by 2021 with 3D printers that will supply meat without killing farm animals.
Space food: NASA is experimenting with 3D printed pizza as an alternative to typical boring astronaut food. The Beehex company can 3D print entire 12-inch pizzas in under five minutes, which are ideal not only for use in space but also potentially in pizza restaurants and takeaways.
Biometric 3D Printed Sushi: Open-Meals may revolutionize the way we eat with their digitized food. When making reservations for their restaurant, Sushi Singularity (set to open in Tokyo, Japan), guests receive a health test kit that will give the restaurant information about their unique biometrics nutritional needs, which allows the restaurant to use bespoke 3D printers to create a meal that is personalized to people's biodata.
Food for people who have difficulty chewing: Nursing homes in Germany serve a 3D-printed food product called Smoothfoods to elderly residents who have trouble chewing and swallowing.
Curious about 3D food printing? There are quite a few 3D printers on the market right now that will help you create digital versions of things like pastries, chocolate sculptures, and pasta. The current 3D food printers are a bit pricey, however, with many in the range of $3,000 - $4,000.
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