3D Printing in the Food industry
Have you ever heard of 3D printed food? Yes, that’s now possible not only in Star Trek but also in the real world! Read more and know how to 3D print food in your own kitchen!
HOW IS FOOD PRINTING DIFFERENT FROM TRADITIONAL 3D PRINTING?
Speed and reliability really matter in the case of regular 3D printing. But when printing food, we should add more factors that count:
Reliability: Ideally, we want every print to be as precise as the last one. With 3D printing food, the result usually is limited in the texture. Besides, food printing materials behave differently from traditional plastic. Chocolate, for example, doesn’t cool down at room temperature, and may slightly deform the original shape while slowly melting and cooling.
Speed: 3D printing a whole meal in a restaurant takes a lot of time, so for now printing food still is way too slow for mass production. Some food printer providers claim their machines can produce food in under 1 minute but don’t expect it to be a giant piece!
Cost: Specialized 3D printers give you great results, but they’re pricy.
Safety: Every part of food 3D printer should be clean and food-safe. It’s your health that matters.
HOW DOES A FOOD 3D PRINTER WORK?
Typically, food 3D printers use the technology which is similar to fused deposition modeling. It allows printing any shape you want, as long as it doesn’t overcome the limitations of your printer and the laws of physics. But food 3D printers use dough instead of filament, which is the main difference. The dough paste may consist of different previously prepared ingredients, such as chocolate, sugar, and even tomato sauce! Food printing raw materials don’t come in spools like your plastic materials. The dough has to have a certain degree of viscosity and must, be inserted into a syringe-like container for later extrusion.
Food 3D printing is a very niche market, but innovations and new technologies take place here as well. Newer binding printers adhere materials together with a kind of edible cement. The last generation of food printers is far more complicated than just extruding the paste. By combining nozzles, powdery material, lasers, and robotic arms modern professional 3D printers allow making complex sweet sculptures, chocolates with your patterns, laced pastry, brownies, and even pizza!
Image source: google.com
REAL FOOD vs 3D PRINTED FOOD
Is 3D printed food different from traditionally prepared food? The main difference is the texture. When preparing meals using ingredients from your local grocery, you decide in which shapes and sizes should you cut your food, which ingredients to mix, and how to cook them. With printing, there’s not much of a choice here. Any food you’d like to print must be pureed to be later easily extruded on a plate.
So it’s a myth, that you can print literally anything. Nowadays, the main ingredients used in food printing are chocolate, sugar, pancake batter or cookie dough, dairy products, pasts, wheat and grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Image source: google.com
IS 3D PRINTED FOOD SAFE TO EAT?
3D printed food is nothing more than good old edible ingredients which are extruded on a surface, so the answer is yes. Just make sure, that the food was prepared in an appropriate food-safe machine which is as clean as possible, just like everything in your own kitchen.
DO FOOD PRINTERS COOK FOOD?
Mostly 3D printers do not cook the food. If you are 3D printing a pizza, the printer will extrude the dough and tomato sauce, but won’t cook it. You should put the printed pizza in the oven yourself. This is why food printing now in mostly focused on printing pieces that should not be later cooked or baked. However, some printers such as PancakeBot, extrude the dough onto the hotplate, so it actually cooks. The technology here still needs help from a human being - you have to flip your pancake to cook it on the other side.
HOW FOOD 3D PRINTING IS USED?
Nowadays, food 3D printing is used mostly by professionals in the food industry. Restaurants and bakeries use 3D printed food to become more attractive to new customers and experiment with different food experiences.
Did you know, that a whole restaurant and a pop-up store with 3D printed food only already exist? Food Ink was designed and equipped almost entirely by using commercially available printers. Everything (including tables, chairs, and lamps) was printed over the course of a week. All of the entrees and desserts served are 3D-printed, too. Comparing it to the “farm to table” concept, it’s rather the “pixels to plate” visualization.
Image source: google.com
The industrial food production sector also makes use of edible 3D printing, which helps to widen the products' range with new unusual creations. Food 3D printers can be also used at home, which will definitely bring more fun and creativity to your kitchen with food customization.
What do you think of food 3D printing? Would you try it in your kitchen? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your ideas of what to 3D print for lunch!