While it may sound like it’s out of a “Back to the Future” movie, 3D printed foods are here. From oreos, to pizza, to nutella and sugar, the latest 3D printed foods are all edible. Still in its infancy, researchers at Cornell and MIT are developing 3D printers specifically for food products. However, some major commercial companies have started to experiment with 3D printed foods such as Barilla, Hershey’s and Modelez International.
Earlier this year at SXSW in Austin, Texas, Mondelez International printed custom oreos for attendees in a variety of flavors. Although the texture may not have been quite what was expected, the taste and overall appeal was astounding. Another company called Structur3D demonstrated how their 3D printer add-on called Discov3ry could print with nutella, (yes nutella), as well as other liquid materials including silicone and wood filler.
Perhaps the most elaborate 3D printed foods are the sugar confections that 3D Systems and the Von Hasseln’s invented. Grad students Von Hasseln and her husband Kyle explored the possibility of tweaking existing technology to print layers of sugar. They originally printed a cake topper for a friend’s birthday party; after that they established Sugar Lab and began designing and printing 3D candies in a variety of flavors. 3D Systems purchased Sugar Lab and have continued to develop confectionary creations as well as one of the first commercially available 3D food printers – the ChefJet and ChefJet Pro, which are expected to be available later this year.
Barilla is currently working on a 3D printer for pasta to be used in restaurants. The machine would print 15 – 20 pieces every 2 minutes. They have yet to mass-produce any prototype, but the intriguing part is the ability to create custom pasta shapes. This could add a whole new level to restaurant marketing. Maybe you could even print pasta in the shape of your logo? The future holds endless possibilities.
Last year NASA joined in on the 3D printed foods experiments with engineer Arjan Contractor and built a 3D printer that prints edible pizza. Anyone remember the pizza scene from Back to the Future? We have come a long way in technology and 3D printed foods are the tip of the iceberg.