3D Printing Food

Stampa 3D Alimenti

3D Printing Food

3D printing of foodstuffs could represent the future of humanity as it grapples with the problem of sustainability in many areas, such as food. The ever-increasing world population, especially in certain parts of the world, is making traditional farming and cultivation of the elements insufficient, so various solutions are being considered, including 3D printing.

3D printing of food

3D printing is a revolutionary technique that has enabled numerous benefits, mainly when producing particular objects that can be used in disparate groups. Today, one can rely on a company like Fama 3D that provides qualified and competent personnel capable of developing innovative projects to meet any request, perhaps for producing parts for the automotive sector, obtaining exclusive elements to furnish a house and much more. The main characteristics of this technique also make it suitable for other uses, such as food production.

There are several contexts in which it could be beneficial to obtain food with 3D printing, such as the world’s sustainability problem, with so many countries grappling with excessive population growth that makes it challenging to provide enough food for everyone. Furthermore, there are some fields, such as aerospace, where it could be crucial to have a method for creating and growing food directly on the spacecraft. In recent months, NASA and many other space agencies have been planning to allow humans to go as far as Mars, which means managing a very long journey with the problem of food.

There are some currents of thought analysing the first data that have arrived from Mars thanks to the various probes that have been sent, according to which there may be a possibility of creating a kind of vegan food chain on Mars. However, NASA, which is somewhat the main body and the space agency likely to be the first to manage this kind of journey, is thinking of a completely different possibility, such as printing directly in space the food necessary for the astronauts. The project is now so clear that several agencies are moving to recruit astronauts willing to undertake this journey in the not-too-distant future and who are physically prepared above all.

There is, of course, the possibility of creating greenhouses with the necessary modifications because, indeed, the environmental conditions are entirely different from those on Earth, but this would require the astronauts to devote a lot of time to growing food, so they would not be able to deal with the various scientific research to be done. To confirm how much NASA believes in the project of being able to print food using 3D printing technology, a sort of call for tenders has been set up, or at least a large cheque has been made available to develop and research prototypes capable of doing so.

Currently, development is centred on this kind of use, but creating a 3D printer capable of providing large quantities of food and quality food could also be the future for some areas with difficulties. The advantages are considerable because there is no need to deal with cultivation and harvesting and many other aspects and because we would have food ready to be used in the kitchen or, even better, to be consumed. The project has been entrusted to engineer Anjan Contractor of the SMRC (System and Materials Research Corporation).

How to make food with 3D printing

The realisation of food with 3D printing is a project in the development phase, which already means the conditions are in place for it to become a reality. The question is, therefore, how it is possible to achieve a revolution that was unthinkable only a few months ago. The potential of 3D printing is indisputable, so it will only be necessary to reproduce the same concept but with other materials, which in this case are naturally occurring raw materials.

The first step will be to separate the various components of the food by placing them in powder cartridges used in the 3D printers. In this way, the user can choose a combination of foodstuffs that is somewhat like a chef’s. The difference is that the chef with the 3D printer does not have to worry about the recipe and, above all, forget about the cooking times and the various steps to be managed, but clicks on a special control panel to locate the foodstuffs to be used, for example, to make a pizza or a cake. The aim of the project is not just to create a simple food but even a range that, in the specific case of astronauts, allows them to have a wide variety of foods at their disposal to have a varied and functional nutritional regime for the body’s needs. It should be noted that the engineer carrying out the research and the project’s development phase on behalf of NASA has already succeeded in 3D printing chocolate.

The product appears to be of high quality with an adequate nutritional intake that respects classic chocolate on the market. Today, a second phase of the project is being developed to create the pizza. The chocolate is objectively a more straightforward creation because it is sufficient to break down the ingredients into powders and have the printer create them in any shape. In contrast, the pizza is a more complex product that requires specific steps. Undoubtedly, the shape and colours of the pizza are more complicated to make, which is why if you succeeded in this last step, you would have almost achieved your goal. There are already elements that can be debated, which gives a good idea of the potential and characteristics of 3D printing because the system to be created will first have to print a sheet of dough. Then, a layer of tomato will be made, starting with the classic powder mixed with water and oil. This development is congruent with the famous theorem that a complex problem can be solved by breaking it into many more straightforward issues.

We are in the era of Star Trek.

Fans of the famous TV series Star Trek will remember how the crew aboard the renowned starship Enterprise had a food synthesiser to satisfy their dietary needs. This is one of the many examples of how fiction has often managed to get ahead of the times or even give science a clue as to where to go from here. The fact is that this kind of situation that was once science fiction can now become reality. The synthesiser, which in this case is a 3D printer created by the NASA project, is already able to create a good chocolate bar from the tooth that astronauts and anyone else in the world can use to satisfy their need for a sweet treat and get some sugars to help them cope with an everyday task.

Suppose we want to be even more precise. In that case, there are already manufacturers on the market providing solutions for 3D food production, such as the ChefJet printer by 3D Systems or the Foodini by Natural Machine. These devices can create a classic chocolate bar and simpler dishes and sugar. We are still in the first phase of developing this technology, but extraordinary scenarios will open up, especially for the world’s food problem. In this way, it would be enough to install a fair number of 3D printers in poor areas where it is difficult to cultivate, such as Africa, to have all the food needed to meet people’s needs. Many problems would also be solved concerning children, who are often undernourished and suffer from many diseases that can, unfortunately, lead to death in those parts of the world.

The first 3D printing projects for food

To be precise, the development of this technology started many years ago, particularly in 2006, with NASA, which started doing some very experimental research. At that time, 3D printing technology was not as advanced as today, and the results were not exceptional. An attempt was made to design a machine capable of producing sugar paste, but the result was not optimal in taste and consistency. Fortunately, over the past 15 years, there has been an extraordinary evolution of this technology, which has allowed incredible and unthinkable steps to be taken even in the realisation of objects for furniture or to be used in the field of mechanics.

All the prerequisites are in place today, but it has taken several steps. 2006, for example, there was still no idea what direction to take. Still, in 2013, there was the first breakthrough with the launch of a new project aimed at creating food for astronauts to prolong missions or manage potentially longer ones, such as the increasingly coveted human journey to Mars.

Today’s 3D printers for food make it possible to create a product that can be used generally for baking. In fact, at the moment, it is utopian to think of food that is already cooked, whereas chocolate bars can easily be made and do not require any cooking. Confirming the goodness of this project and how it can undoubtedly represent the future, especially for certain parts of the world, some companies have recognised its potential and are now developing 3D technologies that enable the creation of essential foods that can be used in many applications such as sugar, chocolate, pasta and even vegetarian dishes.

Benefits for health as well

The detractors of this technology applied in the food industry wonder why so much time and effort must be spent developing a technology with these characteristics. The answer is quite simple and, in some respects, even noticeable: It would first take some pressure off the food issue. Furthermore, there has been some resistance because a large segment of the population is reluctant to buy and eat processed food with technologically advanced systems.

However, even this form of ideological resistance has been overcome at the supermarket, where the food available is, in fact, also obtained by a technologically advanced process involving the use of a machine to prepare food and then place it in a mould. Among other things, 3D technology would also have advantages because one chooses the ingredients to put in, which means protecting one’s health as well. Mixing ingredients to one’s liking means creating new flavours and more exclusive shapes that children might enjoy. Consider, for example, the classic problem of getting children to eat vegetables.

With 3D printing, one could take the same vegetables and present them in shapes that are more familiar to the child, such as a dinosaur or a cartoon character. 3D printing technology and foodstuffs would also overcome all the problems of food intolerances by making it possible to create food without using ingredients harmful to one’s organism, such as people who cannot consume lactose or gluten. The problems of older people who have to cope with food that is too hard and the related difficulty in chewing would also be overcome. In this case, products that are similar in taste would be created but with the appropriate consistency for their needs.

3D printing to solve the food waste problem

Eco-sustainability is a goal that must be pursued in all sectors, especially in the food sector. There are countries with a tremendous amount of food waste, while in others, there is a lack of resources. The time has come to rebalance this situation through technologies such as 3D printing that allow this feedback. Then there are also positive consequences concerning the pollution and waste caused by the sale and consumption of food. Well, with 3D printing, this would no longer be a problem because the packaging of any material would be eliminated. One would no longer have to deal with waste management. In short, all the necessary characteristics are in place for 3D printing food to represent a concrete and functional future. Admittedly, we are still in the early days of the technique because a cooking phase is still required, and the consistency of certain types of food also needs to be improved, but this certainly appears to be the right way forward concerning the economic aspect.

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