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Did you ever consider eating a 3D printed pizza? Can you imagine having a 3D printer for food next to your microwave oven? Well, dear foodies, get ready, the revolution is happening.
In fact, also NASA has recently funded a Small Business Innovation Research in order to pursue this technology for the on demand production of food in the International Space Station! Eating in space will be a whole different experience for our astronauts.
3D printing is also called Additive Manufacturing (AM) and is a promising field that is facing the challenge of reproducing traditional food with printing techniques. As you might guess, printing food is not as easy as it seems when you write it down.
In this article we will highlight four important aspects of 3D food printing:
1. Personalised nutrition
In a world where food companies are working with the aim of improving customer’s life, health and behaviour in terms of food choices and nutrition, 3D printing can be regarded as a useful tool for customisation and personalised nutrition and to design customised food for children and elderly people especially helping them whenever there are any chewing or swallowing issues thanks to the textures that will be able to be obtained by using this technology.
2. Ingredients need to be ‘Printable’
First of all, for a food to be printed, the ingredients as well must be “printable” because it is important for an ingredient (let’s say a puree) to maintain and keep the shape upon all of the manipulation the food might go through in terms of boiling or frying or cooking in general.
Food scientists, alongside companies producing 3D printers, are working in order to develop reproducible recipes to be prepared via 3D printing and nowadays, it is also common to find restaurants that offer 3D printed food (Food Ink in London).
3. Keeping structure upon deposition
As we previously mentioned, for 3D food printing, a rational food design is needed. 3D food printing makes it possible to obtain complex textures and structures and a key element is the printability of the ingredient. This means that the material itself should have a texture that is able to keep the structure upon handling and deposition in order to make the food resist to boiling or baking or frying and so on which is part of post-processing.
In order to do so, it is important to have a knowledge of the essential components of food such as carbohydrates, fat and proteins.
One example regards sugar as the crystallisation state of sugars is important especially for chocolate 3D printing. Protein conformation can be changed by handling conditions (pH or temperature) and can change conformation thanks to the use of enzymes.
Given the idea of 3D food printing as a mean of merging several processing steps into one, there would be a fair decrease of food waste. Food won’t be manufactured until ordered, hence less water and less energy will be consumed.
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Dankar I., Haddarah A., Omar F.E.L., Sepulcre F., Pujola’ M. (2018). 3D printing technology: The new era for food customization and elaboration. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 75, 231 – 242.
Godoi F.C., Prakash S., Bhandari B.R. (2016). 3D printing technologies applied for food design: status and prospects. Journal of Food Engineering. 179, 44 – 54.
Lipton J.I., Cutler M., Nigl F., Cohen D., Lipson H. (2015). Additive manufacturing for the food industry. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 43, 114 – 123.
Joost H.G., Gibney M.J., Cashman K.D., Gӧrman U., Hesketh J., Mueller M., van Omen B., Williams C.M., Mathers J.C. (2007). Personalised nutrition: status and perspectives. British Journal of Nutrition. 98, 26-31.