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How can 3D food printing impact the food industry?

Is 3D food printing a utopia? Will 3D printers be in our kitchens tomorrow? It is rather the first step, but they are already a reality. Projects led by recognized scientists and other enthusiasts have already seen the light of day and the results are amazing. Let’s take stock of what’s really happening…

The road already traveled

It’s not presumptuous to say that food 3D printing is in its infancy, but it’s important to look back and realize the advances in the field.

  1. A quick history of food 3d printing in research laboratories

Work on food 3D printing began around 2006 when NASA decided to test and develop the technology for astronaut food. The technology was not a huge success and the first results were not flamboyant. The parts were printed in sugar paste and could not be too complex. It was then that melt deposition technology appeared and allowed the process to evolve. From then on, it became possible to print chocolate, candies etc. In the last few years, we can see 3D printers dedicated to food 3D printing, whereas in the beginning, the printers were modified FDM

2. The pizza project by NASA

One of the first times the general public and media covered food 3D printing was when NASA tried to 3D print a pizza for its astronauts. The project, which dates back to 2013, had results like this:

3d printed Nasa pizza
A pizza with 3d printing deposition of tomato sauce

Although the result is encouraging, it is obvious that 3D printing of food is still very far from being able to supplant traditional cooking. Indeed, from a purely technical point of view, it is already a feat in itself, but from a visual point of view, it is not very appetizing.

Now we need to know where food 3D printing stands eight years after that pizza.

3. 3D printing for food in 2021

Today it is possible to print more complex shapes like this one:

3d printed cookie done by La Patisserie Numerique
An example of 3d printed cookie by La Patisserie Numerique

There is volume and complexity of the shape that is not necessarily found in the pizza printed by NASA. This shows that the techniques of 3D food printing have evolved, and here at La Patisserie Numerique we’re happy to contribute.

4. 3d printed Meat

Another example would be 3D printed meat:

3d printed meat example
3d printed meat done by Redefine Meat

According to them, this vegetable steak would have the same texture, the same taste, and the same aspect as a meat steak. From a purely visual point of view, we can say that it is a success. This aspect alone shows the progress in the field of food 3D printing. You only have to compare this picture to the pizza from the beginning to see the difference in appearance.

Ongoing projects for the commercialization of food 3D printing

  1. The pasta printed in 3d

More and more companies are trying their hand at food 3D printing, the most important example is Barilla. Indeed, Barilla has decided to release a 3D printed pasta service. BluRhaspsody of its name offers recipes based on 3D printed pasta.

3d printed pasta by Blurapsodhy - Barilla
An example of 3d model

Barilla’s ambition is to supply chefs and individuals. Moreover, the price is relatively high. In promotion, the cheapest of the pieces is 23,90€ for 12 pieces. There are also formulas with 22 pieces for 57,90€. Barilla’s project is important because it is one of the first large-scale commercialization of products made by 3D printing. The success or failure of this project in the long term could have an impact on the industry’s funding. A failure could chill other potential market players, and success, whether financial or marketing, could push other large companies to invest in food 3D printing. As far as 3D printing of dough is concerned, we can say that the result is aesthetically successful, but as far as taste is concerned, as I have not tasted it, I cannot say.

2. Mona Lisa service – 3d printed chocolate by Cacao Barry

The service Mona Lisa from Cacao Barry is a pioneer in the world of 3D printed chocolate. Indeed, the entity offers a service of creation and printing of your designs with the participation of their designers. The ambition is to change the way chocolate is presented, whether by its shape or its consistency. The creations are therefore tailor-made, especially this flower:

3d food printing of chocolate by Cacao Barry
The first step of the flower

This flower has the particularity to open a first time when you pour hot chocolate on it.

3d food printing of chocolate by Cacao Barry - step 2 of the flower by Jordi Roca
Second step of the flower

Then a third time by repeating the same process.

3d printed chcocolate flour by cacao barry
Final step of the flower

3. The 3d printed food supplements from Nourished

England is one of the most important markets for food supplements. In fact, almost 70% of the British population consumes them. The company Nourished had the idea to create 3D food supplements. It is, therefore, possible to control the content of these supplements, as well as the calories via 3D food printing. The supplement is created by layer and each layer contains a different food or vitamin. The site contains a questionnaire that allows you to customize your supplement, to make a custom.

3d printed gum by Nourished

Above is an example of a test result. As you can see, the result is specific to each person and the complement will contain more or fewer layers depending on your choices.

4. Culinary Printworks

Culinary Prihttps is a company that offers to realize your ideas in 3D sugar printing using powder technology. The principle is simple you contact them with your idea. The company then models the idea and prints it in sugar. The color is variable as well as the size of the product.

Sugar 3d printing by Culinary works from 3DS
Example of a 3d print

Above is a 3D print of sugar, Culinary Printworks is one of the only companies using powder technology to 3D print sugar.

What place for food 3d printing in the food industry of tomorrow?

  1. Rapidly prototype new products

The advantage of using 3D printing is the speed of prototyping. All you have to do is 3D model the prototype in a 3D modeling software like Blender, 3D Builder or Meshmixer. Molding is a slow and tedious process that does not exist in food 3D printing. Indeed, the 3D printer creates the 3D model directly, so there is no need for a mold.

The same goes for the tooling, only the printer and the food products are required. In addition, printing, while generally slower than the industry standard, is still relatively fast and can be tested on the spot. 3D prototyping saves time and costs because, without the need for molding and tooling, it is obvious that the cost will be lower.

2. Take meal customization to the next level

Another project in the works is controlling satiety with the help of food 3D printing. Researchers have 3D-printed cookie pieces with different filling densities. It is important to know that the more a person chews a food, the greater his or her satiety.

MIT publication on 3d printed food

It is possible to control the number of calories you put in a 3D-printed food. Therefore, beyond the personalized meal visually speaking, soon it will be possible to create new sensations in the mouth based on density or calories. Moreover, this could allow us to consume less, because if we chew more because of the consistency of the food, our satiety will be greater. We can therefore consume less by lowering the number of calories in the food.

3. Strengthen distributed mass production by creating networks of food printers

Today, there are community printing sales platforms dedicated solely to 3D printing. In France, the Partage3D website is one of the most important. The principle is simple: you send a request to someone who has a 3D printer near you. This person will then model your model, if you do not have a 3D file, or simply print and finish your product.

3d printer network in France: Partage3d

We can hope that in a perspective of the development of 3D food printing, a network or an organized platform of 3D food printers will be created. Individuals will then be able to order personalized food directly without going through an intermediary.

4. Inventing another food industry

The question is what future for 3D food printing? If in 2013 some researchers thought that food 3D printing would supplant traditional cooking, the opinions in 2021 all converge to the same point. It is unlikely and currently impossible that 3D food printing will completely replace traditional cooking.

As for the food industry, it is possible that 3D food printing could change certain processes. It will be necessary to wait until the printers are faster and more efficient to be able to compete with the already existing machines. In addition, for the prototyping part, it is not impossible that in the very near future, the use of 3D food printers will become more widespread. For the time being, food 3D printing is progressing and continues to spread throughout the world.

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