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3D Food Printing, how and why?

It may sound like science fiction, but experts say that by 2050 we’ll be able to print almost all foods. 3D printing is all about the three-dimensional printing of products. In engineering many polymer or metal products are already produced by 3D printing. Several years ago 3D food printing was added to the list. But how does 3D food printing work and what opportunities does it offer?

Application

In a 3D printer products are built up layer by layer. The technique enables you to make completely new food products by using different shapes, textures, flavours and compositions. For instance, through food printing you can spread sugar and salt through a foodstuff in a different way than by old-fashioned mixing, decreasing the amount of sugar and salt in your flavouring process. This is because flavour is not a constant, but depends on contrast. 3D printing allows you to play around with flavours. 

Needless to say the technique offers more than a new way to mix sugar and salt. Take the pharmaceutical industry, for example. 3D food printing allows for processing medicine in food, as well as enriching food by adding extra proteins or other essential nutrients. This can be a great help for seniors that have difficulty chewing or swallowing. Mixing medicine or nutrients through food was previously only possible in soft or pureed food. However, pureed food is not the best option for seniors, who often experience a decrease in appetite. By 3D printing their food, seniors no longer have to settle for orange or brown purees, but can have the same results with a carrot and a piece of chicken. 

Sustainable

Apart from innovations in flavour and texture 3D printing also comes with sustainable applications. Right now about a third of all food is wasted. Through 3D food printing foodstuffs that were previously rejected because of their shape can still be used as a base for mousses. Another application is the use of sustainable food alternatives, such as the replacement of meat by alternative ingredients like insects or algae. Besides, 3D food printers use powders that are mixed with water just before the printing process. Because of the long shelf life of these powders there is less waste in the food chain.

Future research is focused on using 3D food printing for personalised food. Based on DNA it will be possible to determine the specific nutritional needs of each individual. This allows you to print meals tailored to these physical needs. In the future 3D food printing may permanently change the way food is currently produced.

In summary, we see the following opportunities and threats:
1. Health: Less sugar and salt is needed to flavor a product;
2. Medical: It is easy to add medicines to food;
3. Sustainable: Products that would be thrown away can still be used in this way;
4. Threat: Major change in food production, is the market ready for this?

Of course I am curious to learn what your view on 3D food printing is.

My name is Sara Blanken. Within TMC I am a business manager for the Chemical competence. Our Employeneurs are engaged in innovative projects at our customers. Our motto is that everything starts with sharing knowledge, that’s why we wrote this blog.

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