While it may sound futuristic, 3D printed foods are here.
A lot of the work is still in its early stages, with researchers at Cornell and MIT developing 3D printers made specifically for edible products. But there are also some commercial projects underway. Barilla, Hershey, and Mondelez International are just a few of the consumer food brands exploring the potential of 3D printing.
At this year's SXSW, Mondelez International 3D printed custom Oreos based on what was trending on Twitter with the hashtag #eatthetweet. SXSW attendees could choose from 12 flavours including banana, mint, birthday cake, and lime, and then select either a chocolate or vanilla base for the cookie. The Oreo would then be printed in two minutes.
Apparently the cookies tasted like regular Oreos, but they fell apart a bit too easily.
The 3D printing machine was created by MAYA Design using a Delta Bot 3D printer, but at this point it will probably still just be a fun marketing stunt as opposed to something you'd see in a grocery store.
3D printing startup Structur3D created a 3D printer add-on called Discov3ry, which can create a paste from all sorts of materials, including plastic, silicone, wood filler, and yes, Nutella.
At this past year's Maker Faire show, Structur3D demonstrated how they could print the Maker Faire logo with Nutella. Besides the Nutella creations, the add-on can also be used to print intricate cake decorations or complex designs using icing sugar.
The Discov3ry is available for preorder for $US349, but you'll also need to have a 3D printer that is compatible with the add-on. The device is set to ship in December.
3D Systems is working on releasing a kitchen-ready printer that would let you print out elaborate confections.
In January, 3D Systems announced that it was getting ready to sell ChefJet, kitchen-ready 3D printers to create edible products.
The printer was showcased at CES and is targeting the average consumer, who probably doesn't have much experience with 3D printing. A complimentary 'Digital Cookbook' will let users easily select a design to print out in a variety of materials, including chocolate, vanilla, mint, sour apple, cherry, and watermelon.
They're aiming to launch two printers by the end of 2014 with the monochrome version in the sub-$5,000 price range and the full-colour, larger printer in the sub-$10,000 price range.
Barilla, the world's top pasta seller, is working on a 3D pasta printer for restaurants.
The machine would be able to print 15-20 pieces every two minutes, getting a pasta dish to a diner in just a few minutes. It would also allow for custom-designed pasta shapes.
Instead of flour and egg, the restaurants would need to feed Barilla pasta cartridges into the printer.
The machine is being developed with a Dutch tech company called TNO Eindhoven. They have been tested in a few restaurants in Eindhoven, but have yet to be mass-produced.
The machine prints out the pizza in layers, topping the dough with ketchup and cream cheese. It then is cooked by a heated surface. Definitely still needs work, but at least it's edible.
NASA revealed the pizza at SXSW, admitting that they haven't quite yet perfected the 3D printed pizza.
Choc Edge's 3D printer prints out chocolate in layers to form a solid 3D chocolate product based on a computer design.
The Choc Creator V1 is available for £ 2,888 (about $US4700), and the newest version is available for £ 3,888 (about $US6300). You can also buy all the materials from their site. Or you can just order custom-made chocolates that they will 3D print for you.
Hershey is also getting in on 3D printed chocolate, having partnered with 3D Systems in January, but it has yet to unveil any actual products.
Natural Machine developed the Foodini printer to help people cook with fresh and healthier ingredients. You just put in the prepared materials in capsules, select what you want to come out (say, ravioli) and the printer does all the work. You'll still have to actually put it in an oven, though.
The Foodini is not yet available to the public. Original plans called for it to come out this year and cost around $US1,300, according to the New York Daily News.
Cornell Creative Machines Lab is developing a 3D printer that can create tiny space shuttle-shaped scallop nuggets, hamburgers with embedded layers of mustard and ketchup, and cake that when cut reveals a secret message. The printer uses edible inks and digital blueprints and works with cartridges to print out the product.
They're working to both expand the artistic capabilities in food creation as well as increase the scale of culinary production. This is still in development and has yet to shift over to commercial applications, but it could signal some really interesting forms of food coming our way.
Norweigian Miguel Valenzuela and his wife Runi started PancakeBot in 2010 at their two daughters' request. They debuted the actual pancake printers at Maker Faire and are now focusing on inspiring kids to be creative and have fun with their food.
They are not selling the printers, but they have provided instructions to build your own out of legos.
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