Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a process where an object is created layer by successive layer to form a whole. So far 3D printers have created things from plastic, resin, metal, and even chocolate! As the technology advances so will the capability to print from other materials and combinations of materials. This will have serious implications on many industries including some very exciting possibilities for the food industry.
How 3D Food Printers Work
Simply stated, you get what you put in. Food can be broken down into three main components: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. One day the technology will be advanced enough to simply put a custom amount of these nutritional categories into the printer, add custom flavors, and choose a type of food to print.
If you wanted a high protein pasta you would insert the raw ingredients, tell the printer the ratio of protein that you want, click the pasta button, and press print. Condiments and sauces will be made in a similar way. With the development of bioprinting it is conceivable that if you will even be able to print organic foods such as an apple or an orange. To all of you meat lovers, don’t worry, meat is already being printed and is reportedly just as delicious as what you are accustomed to.
As for the taste of printed food, there is no reason that it should taste any different than “regular” food. It is made from the same ingredients, the only difference is how it is put together. In fact, because of the high levels of customization that 3D printing offers, people may be able to get exactly the taste that is most satisfying to them.
This process might turn out to be as time-saving to households as the invention of the washing machine. In order to make a meal one only has to load the ingredients, select the desired food, and click print. This expedited process will surely save people tons of time when they would otherwise be cooking.
Well into the future 3D printers will be able to print on a molecular level. When this day comes food printing can become as complex as one is willing to program.
Perhaps the most useful aspect of food printing is its nutritional capabilities. Because you can directly control what you put into your food, you can also control the nutritional properties of the food. In addition to protein, carbohydrates, and fats, one can also add custom amounts of vitamins and minerals into the mix.
If you are an athlete who needs a high protein and high carb diet, all you have to do is tell your printer the ratios of what you want. Seniors, who need a low carb and high calcium diet can get these specifications with the click of a button. Pregnant women can get all of the Omega 3’s that they need so long as they remember to add the proper amount to the printer.
The benefits of food printing are immense. People will easily be able to set their own diets to exactly what their body needs. This will effectively cut down on obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Food printing will also revolutionize food design. With a variety of different printing methods, new shapes and textures can be created that could never have been made before. Creating food into shapes will become a whole new specialized art, or it could just be a fun project for the family. The ability to create new textures will change the experience of eating and increase the possibilities of food construction.
Special Dietary Needs
Food printing will be extraordinarily beneficial to those who have special dietary needs. Those who are gluten free will have easier access to a greater amount of food options. If you don’t put gluten into the printer, you won’t be eating any and the food choices will be just as numerous. Vegetarians, vegans, and others who have dietary restrictions will also benefit from food printing.
For those who like putting certain ingredients into foods, but may find it hard or time consuming to do so, this technology may be helpful. For example, an athlete who prefers whey protein after workouts will relish in the fact that you can control what kind of proteins you can put into your printer.