Of all the potential applications of 3D printing, one of the use-cases we hear far too little about is the idea of using additive manufacturing for printing food.
While a few restaurants have experimented with the technology to create interesting results, it’s not something which on the radar for most people in terms of their likely purchases for the home. That’s something that researchers at Columbia University in New York City are hoping to change, however, with their concept for a consumer food 3D printer, which could comfortably fit on the countertop of just about any kitchen.
“What I wanted to do was to create a machine that would help explain to people what the main function of 3D food printing will be, and how such a printer will fit into their daily lives,” industrial design graduate student Drim Stokhuijzen told Digital Trends. “I wanted this to be the espresso machine of 3D printers.”
Working alongside Columbia’s mechanical engineering professor Hod Lipson, and International Culinary Center (ICC) director of food technology Chef Hervé Malivert, Stokhuijzen’s food-based 3D printer is capable of not only extruding 3D-printed foods (printed from various frozen pureed base ingredients), but also cooking it directly afterward. Right now, it’s still just a proof-of-concept for a product which might ship around 2020 — but it’s all based on real-world technologies, and is a fascinating glimpse into the immediate future of home dining.
Stokhuijzen says his interest in the project was partially sparked by his own desire to understand why 3D printing a meal was important. “Today, we’re in a world of farm-to-table food, where everything has to be organic, fresh and sustainable,” he said. “That world and the world of 3D printing seemed contradictory, but it became increasingly obvious to me where the use-cases will be.” For example, Stokhuijzen notes that 3D printing food creates little waste since people only print what they need. The ability to build a food object layer-by-layer also makes it possible to have precise control over the nutritional content of food. For more adventurous chefs, it also opens up new possibilities for daring creations that would be impossible to create in any other way.
“Food printing is still at the start of its journey,” he said. “But I think this is a realistic look at what 3D food printers will look like, how they will work, and how they’ll interact with the consumer.”
It doesn’t hurt that everything about this concept looks gorgeous, either. Suddenly 2020 can’t come around quick enough!