The glossary of 3D printing: Part 2 (from O to Z)

Letter O 

3D subject: This is both a way to talk about the content of a 3D file and the name of a file format. A 3D object is a mesh of polygons defining surfaces in all three dimensions. The 3D Object file format is better known as the shortcut to its extension. Obj. It is commonly used for file exchange, as is the STL format.

Open Source: Open Source software is software whose program codes (the “sources”) are made public. This will give each user the freedom to use it for free, change the source code, redistribute copies and publish improvements. The open source also exists for hardware, the most well-known project in 3D printing is that of RepRap. Many 3D files are also available in open access, so it’s called a Creative Commons license. 

Living organism: 3D printing of living organisms is the subject of developments made by bioprinting or bioprinting players. One of the direct applications for food is in projects to print meat in 3D.

Letter P

Pancake: Many 3D printers make pancakes in a variety of shapes. They can be found in maker do, fablabs or as part of student projects. One company has marketed a machine, it is the Pancakebot.

Pasta: The Dutch University tNO has developed a machine for the production of 3D printed pasta on behalf of Barilla. This resulted in a form contest. The 3D printed pasta delivery service will be available in 2020. 

Pasta: The 3D printers currently on the market work primarily on the extrusion of a paste through a syringe and a thrust system. This is similar to FDM technology. Professionally printing a food paste requires many challenges. To contaminate viscosity, water retention and microbial proliferation, to name but a few!  

Personalization: Personalization is one of the great benefits of digital manufacturing in general and 3D printing in particular. Indeed, it is almost the same price to make one or one hundred pieces. Because you don’t create a mold, it’s very easy to slightly modify the file to include customization. For example: a message such as a first name or an image. 

Piston: It’s a mechanical piece that slides into a room to change its volume. The piston is often used in pulp-deposit printers to allow the material to be extracted. This is the case for 3D food printers or ceramic printers. It can be operated by a screw or compressed air.

3D printed pizza: The pizza printer was developed in 2013 as part of a NASA project. The goal was to feed the astronauts of the International Space Station ISIS. The engineer behind the project then launched the Company Beehex to commercialize it. 

Print tray: The print tray or bed refers to the flat surface of the 3D printer on which the object rests during 3D printing. Depending on the technology used, the tray can be fixed or mobile (powder technologies or Polyjet). In the latter case, the motion accuracy of the printer bed determines the thickness of the layers of the object. The thinner the layers, the smoother the curved parts or surfaces will appear. Most 3D food printers exist with a fixed tray since they are based on FDM technology. Some 3D food printers offer an easily removable printing tray.  It is easy then to simply cook or freeze the 3D object without the need to take it off. Others work with a heating tray or a refrigeration tray.

Food PLA: PLA or Polylactic acid (polylactic acid) is a plastic of plant origin, commonly using corn starch as a raw material. It is the main natural raw material used in 3D printing. In food, this material is used to make packaging in place of plastics from fossil energy (it is bio-based and more easily degradable). The PLA is used in 3D printing with FDM technology . With the ABS, it is one of the standard materials for this technology. However, not all PLAs available in 3D printing are guaranteed for food contact. 

Polyamide: Polyamide is a plastic commonly used in 3D printing, notably by The Technologies of Laser And Multijet Fusion (HP). It is a material with good mechanical properties that makes it possible to manufacture parts combining good resistance to effort with a high quality of detail. Also called nylon, it has the advantage of being certified for food contact. It therefore allows the direct creation of mold. It is easily cleaned with soapy water (or even in the dishwasher). The downside of polyamide printed 3D objects is that they are slightly porous.

Polyjet: Polyjet is a 3D printing technology developed and patented by the Israeli company Object. The process uses UV to solidify a polymer resin deposited drip by the printing head, much like inkjet printers. This technology has not yet been adapted in the food world, but it can be stressed that the Foodjet process (which consists of depositing droplets of food material) is the closest to it.

Print accuracy: Print accuracy refers to the resolution of the 3D printer.

Print head: The 3D printing head is a strategic part of the 3D printer. It allows the ejection of a material in a liquid or semi-liquid form in order to deposit it in successive layers in order to build the 3D object. This may be the final material or a binder that partially solidifies the powder bed in order to achieve the intended shape. There are great similarities between the print heads of 3D printers and those we know about inkjet printers and the maintenance/de-cluttering problems are similar. In the case of 3D food printing, the print head can also be compared to the nozzles of professional extrusions machines such as trainers or dosers. The ease of cleaning and desinfection of 3D food printing heads is an important quality criterion.

Production: Many people think that digital manufacturing is a prototyping technique, not a production technique. That’s really not true. Many industries use 3D printing for functional parts: in aeronautics, in the medical, in the optics or in dentistry. In fact, you use objects made from 3D prints without even knowing it. This is not yet the case for the food sector and our ambition is to change that. 

(Binder) Projection: Binder Jetting or Inkjet Power Printing is an additive manufacturing process commonly used to create 3D food prints. The first step is to place a thin layer of powder on a manufacturing platform. Second, the print head applies a liquid binder to the powder, creating a solid layer of material. Then, the printing platform goes down slightly to allow the addition of a new layer of powder. Layer after layer, the process is repeated until the creation of the 3D object. This technology was quickly adapted for 3D printing of sugar parts, which led 3D Systems to buy Sugar Lab in 2013.

Prototyping: Fast Prototyping is the rapid manufacture of models and prototypes based on CAD models of 3D objects, in a shorter time and with different manufacturing techniques than those used during production. The prototype may also not be manufactured in the material intended for the final product, but in a material with similar technical characteristics. Historically, rapid prototyping and mock-up have been the first business application of 3D printing. Fortunately, in 3D food printing there is a consensus to make it a production technique.   

Letter R

Recharging: Several 3D pasta-deposit printers work with ready-to-use cartridges. This allows you to easily insert a refill into the syringe to continue your 3D printing. The advantage is that you always get the same result. The downside is that you don’t master exactly what you eat. 

Research: You only have to follow the number of scientific papers published to understand that many researchers are working on 3D food printing. And we say thank you! The explanation is simple. Many of us believe that digital manufacturing technologies are one of the solutions to meet the food challenges of tomorrow. Offer each of the dishes customized according to its needs, reduce waste, consume better by eating less to finally feed the whole planet … not all solutions can come from technology, but technical innovations can contribute to them.

Recycling: Does 3D printing make it possible to offer attractive dishes made from food waste? This is the successful project of Upprinting, a Dutch start-up set up by two design students. Consuming less material is one of the advantages of 3D printing because this technique works additively. Printing only recycled materials often requires sorting and checking for microbial proliferation when it comes to food.

RepRap: Founded in 2005, RepRap is a British-born project whose name comes from the English contraction “Replication Rapid prototyper” (rapid replication designer). This project aims to create a self-replicative 3D printer (which can itself “reprint” itself autonomously) and free. There are many RepRaps around the world and some have been adapted to print food, as part of student challenges. 

Print resolution: The 3D print resolution is the definition level of a 3D object when compared to the 3D file. In other words, resolution is the degree of loss of detail of the manufactured geometry compared to its original model. Several factors influence resolution during the additive manufacturing process: layer thickness (Z-resolution) and print nozzle diameter (XY resolution). The quality of resolution is one of the challenges of 2019 for 3D food printing. 

Restaurant: Unfortunately, there are few restaurants and pastry shops using 3D printing. Many chefs use additive manufacturing to design and manufacture moulds, but very few places offer 3D-printed dishes. 

Letter S

(Food) Safety: When working with food, many hygiene rules must be followed to ensure food safety. Food is a nutritious environment for all the microorganisms around us and it is important to avoid microbial proliferation. A 3D food printer must be very easily cleanable and food must be in contact with the minimum of components. For example, the fat used for the engines should not be found in your dessert…

Syringe: The syringe is a tube with a piston that allows small doses of a liquid to be administered through a needle. They are mainly used in the medical community. 3D dough-deposit printers often work with syringes because they are easy to find in the kitchen. They are made of plastic or stainless steel. The food material is heated in the syringe before being extruded on the tray. 

Service: A 3D printing service is the provision of shared 3D printers to multiple customers. So everyone pays piecemeal rather than having to acquire the material on their own. There are many services around the world, some are based on professional printers like Sculpteo, or are personal printer marketplaces as was originally the case for 3DHubs. In the food sector, there are still few services, we can mention 3dfoodlab for chocolate or BluRapsody for pasta.

Silicone (food-grade) : Silicone is commonly used in the food industry and in pastry especially for mold making. It has the advantage of supporting low and very high temperatures and being inert in contact with food. There are silicone printers and some can print food silicone but on very small scales. You can’t yet easily print your custom birthday cake mold. Today, it is cheaper and faster to print a master’s degree and use it to sink a mold.

Slicer: A slicer is the software that transforms a 3D file into a suite of instructions for the digitally controlled machine. It transforms 3D volume into a succession of 2D layers. The directions of the movements, their speed and the extrusion force are calculated based on many parameters that are related to the material, the functionality of the tray and the printing technology. 

SLS: SLS is the acronym for Selective Laser Sintering. This is a 3D printing technique on powder using a laser. The laser heats fine particles of material that melt and clump together on a certain thickness, thus creating the 3D layer-layer object. It is commonly used for printing plastic, metal and ceramic parts. Columbia University announced at the end of 2018 that it has filed patents for 3D printing of foods using a laser. The laser is mainly used for cooking food after the materials are extracted by the printing head. 

STL: STL is the acronym for Standard Tesselation Language, and it is one of the most commonly used 3D file formats (along with the OBJ) to export a printable 3D file. It consists of describing the surfaces of the mesh using geometric features. 

Space mission: how to feed during a space mission? This is one of the many subjects of the American and European space agencies working on human spaceflight. Personalizing the nutritional intakes of meals and the possibility of making an object to eat without waste are assets of 3D food printing. They can meet the constraints of travel and space travel. 

(3D printing) speed: 3D printing speed is calculated by dividing the height of manufactured material (or height of built layers) for a fixed period of time for a given 3D file. It varies greatly depending on printing technology, material and print resolution. Increasing 3D printing speed is one of the main manufacturing challenges for 3D printers in general. This joins the issues of production rate. In the case of 3D food printing, it is interesting to compare the speed of 3D printing with manual work, done for example by a professional pastry chef. 

(3D printed) Sugar: Several research projects and many makers have worked on 3D sugar printing. Some projects were marketed such as Candyfab which was later acquired by 3Dsystems. The vast majority of these printers work with the binder jetting technique to solidify sugar. On the Reprap forum you can find many recipes. 

Supports: Supports are structures to support sections of a 3D object that would be cantilevered. They are commonly used by several 3D printing technologies (FDM, Polyjet, DMLS) to prevent deformations of an object before it is solidified or completely cooled. The support can be done in the same material with another density, or in a slightly different material. While supports are sometimes needed, they often cause problems to be removed easily, without leaving a mark on the part or without requiring long manual operations.  

Letter T

Temperature: Temperature is one of the most important factors in transforming the texture and taste of food. When printing food in 3D, it is essential to control the temperature. In many printers the material is heated in such a way as to make it liquid and when it comes out of the printing head it stiffens thanks to the ambient temperature (cooling or cooking). Temperature promotes the development of microorganisms and often it is best to avoid heating too long at low temperatures, except in cases where the material is vacuum.

Texture: In the world of 3D modeling, a texture is an image applied to a 3D model, and this data is used for 3D color printing. In food, texture is one of the organoleptic qualities of food products. Respecting the desired texture is therefore one of the technical challenges of 3D food printing. Today there is no 3D file that incorporates the concept of texture, but it can be estimated that it is contained in the geometric coordinates of the object (since this defines the space between the points where the material is deposited). 3D food and color printing was developed thanks to the binder Jetting technique (Sugarjet) we can therefore estimate that this printer makes the X texture of texture, texture squared therefore!  

Thermoforming machine : The thermoformer is a machine that allows a previously heated plastic plate to be used to suck it against a shape (called a mold or punch). This technology is widely used for example for blisters, yoghurt pots or capoffs of machines or robots. In pastry, it is used regularly to make chocolate moulds. The punch, shape is printed in 3D in a plastic or resin resistant to a high temperature.

Letter U

University: 3D printing has started in universities, and the food 3D printing sector is also a research topic of choice for the academic world! The research labs of agronomy universities or the departments of mechanics and chemistry of universities are the main producers of patents, and this on all continents! To learn more, you can read our article on the history and origins of 3D food printing. 

Letter V

Food varnish for 3D printing: are 3D printed materials suitable for food contact? This is a vast subject because it depends on both the printed material and the conditions under which it was made. If you print a room in a dusty and dirty garage, you don’t necessarily want to put it directly in your baby’s mouth… One solution is to cover the pieces with a food varnish, respecting strict hygiene conditions. So you can have a greater variety of material and therefore a greater choice in terms of strength and flexibility.

3D printed meat: 3D-printed synthetic meat is of great interest. This technology could avoid killing animals to feed humans and make meat production more environmentally friendly. Start-ups such as Modern Meadow in the United States, Aleph Farms and Redefine Meat in Israel or Novameat in Spain are making big money raisings in the world of foodtech. Start-ups working on vegetable meat products (alt-meat) such as Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods are also working on 3D printing. They see it as a production solution to get closer to the texture of the meat. 

3D printing volume: The 3D printing volume determines the maximum size of objects that can be printed by the machine used. It depends on both the surface of the tray (or the powder bed) and the maximum print height. One of the technical complexities of additive manufacturing is to get the maximum amount of useful volume given the size of the printer. Depending on the 3D printing technology used, it is sometimes difficult to get a true impression in the corners. The volume of 3D printing has a direct impact on the duration of the production (and thus the price). The largest volume of food printing is offered by the ZMorph VX.

Here’s the end of this glossary dedicated to 3D food printing. There are more than 100 entries! At first, I never imagined that it would lead me to address so many topics! Of course some terms may have eluded us. So feel free to share your suggestions with us in the comments. And if you want to see the first part of this glossary for the letters A to N, you can find it on this page. 

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