If you have learned anything from us, it is that 3D printing is here to stay. Developments in the additive manufacturing industry over the past decade combined with growing accessibility and cheaper costs have opened the flood-gates to a booming new industry. And, business is booming. According to Statista, 3D printing products and services are expected to jump to over 40 billion U.S. dollars by 2024, with an expected growth rate of 26.4% each year between 2020 and 2040. But why?
For the uninitiated, 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of creating three dimensional solid objects from digital files. Objects are usually created layer by layer. One of the benefits of 3D printing is that you can produce complex shapes, relatively quickly using much less material than what you might find in traditional manufacturing methods. However, it gets much deeper than that.
Individuals, small businesses, and massive corporations can tap into additive manufacturing to create cost-effective rapid prototypes or even full-on functioning products. In 2020, there is almost no industry that has not been affected by the world of 3D printing dramatically. The automotive industry, aerospace, healthcare, construction, energy, fashion, and manufacturing industries are all being reshaped by 3D printing.
Car manufacturers are producing hyper-detailed parts and full-on new vehicles through 3D printing technology. Or, some start-ups have tapped into the power of 3D printing to create homes at the fraction of the time and cost of a traditional home. Clothing and shoe manufacturers are starting to look to use additive manufacturing to usher the era of hyper customization or fashion tailored to one’s individual needs and specifications. Researchers have even found ways to print full-on functioning organs, like something out of a science fiction film. Yet, one industry that tends to get overlooked when talking about 3D printing is food.
How about 3D printing your next meal?
Let’s start with the end goal. Eventually, the aim is to have a 3D printer in your kitchen that creates meals for you on demand. With a simple download of a file that includes your nutritional requirements, taste profile, allergy information, etc., this printer would go on to create or print meals in a matter of minutes. And, if this sounds “too out there”, like something only reserved for a science fiction film, today we are here to prove you wrong.
In fact, there are kitchens popping up around the world with the early stages of this technology. Even more so, there are a few printers that you can buy right now that will help you create some tasty dishes.
The 3D printing food industry will go on to have a massive impact on our economy bridging the gap between small and large scale players within the food industry. The additive manufacturing food industry will give everyday consumers, like you, more choice and accessibility to the foods of your choice. Want to have some of that famous New York cheesecake? Simply print it.
Maybe you ran out of penne and need some for your ragu sauce? Simply print it. 3D printing food will open the doors to more creative culinary practices, safer food methods, healthier food options, and more environmentally viable methods of food production. Today we are going to explore all of these plus much more.
3D printing food will open the doors to a new level of creativity
Perhaps you have always had the yearning to experience a top tier restaurant that looks like something directly out of Netflix’s chef’s table; a food experience that has dishes that not only taste amazing but look like miniature sculptures that could stand on their own in a museum. Or, maybe you are on the other side of the coin and would like to create food that looks just like this. 3D printing food is making all of this possible.
Look no further than Future Food Designer Chloé Rutzerveld and her Edible Growth project. In short, the creative’s project used the power of additive manufacturing to create “edible ecosystems”. Rutzerveld has come up with a way to 3D print a complete edible mini garden.
Her edible support structures are a breeding ground with various organisms directly printed inside a tiny reusable greenhouse according to a personalized 3D file. The unique design of the structure prevents the organisms from infecting each other. When your edible is printed and set you can take it to your sunlit windowsill and watch it bloom into your edible garden.
“Imagine a completely edible “mini vegetable garden” with crispy plants and mushrooms; an incomplete dish that becomes a full meal after it has been printed,” says Rutzerveld. I made it my mission to find a way to use this technology to create healthy, functional food that could contribute in solving world food problems and environmental issues."
Not only are her food options beautiful organic looking structures, but they are also a sustainable and healthy alternative to some of the more traditional ways you eat. 3D printing can be used to create unique geometric shapes and sculptures that also have very functional properties that would be tedious if created by hand.
Though her projects are not completely 3D printed directly, Dinara Kasko, and her geometric pastries have caught the attention of the world. Using 3D printers to create Kinetic Art Mold, she is able to take her pastry-making to entirely new levels with her geometric sculptures. What is even more fascinating is that you can purchase or create these molds at home with your own 3D printer and wow your friends with your own 3D printed geometric creations.
3D printing is helping us recycle food
According to the minds at Genecis, humans waste upwards of $1 trillion worth of food across the world each year. The founder of the start-up, Luna Yu, has one big goal, and that is to take this waste and turn it into something of higher value. Her team from the University of Toronto Scarborough is using food waste to create biodegradable plastics. Using the power of biotechnology, machine learning, and microbial engineering, the team is able to create PHAs, or polyhydroxyalkanoates, that can be used to create more sustainable toys, medical devices, and 3D printer filament.
However, the fun does not stop there. Founded by Van Doleweerd along with Vita Broeken, the company Upprinting takes unwanted and discarded food and uses it to create paste filament that in turn is used to create delicious snacks. This food paste can be stored for extended periods of time and can be used to create a host of dishes. You can check out some of their recipes on their website.
Your future plates could be 3D printed
Your food experience in the 3D printed world is not just limited to the food you eat. In many restaurants, owners and chefs spend countless hours deciding what silverware and plates will be used for your experience. In the 3D printed food industry, your plates could be simply created that day. Even more so, your 3D printed cutlery and plates will most likely be edible. Step into a byFlow kitchen and you will quickly learn of the many ways additive manufacturing will change your eating experience.
Offering customers their own 3D food printer, this device can not only help you create a host of delicious dishes, but the byFlow printer can help you create custom plates for your creations and serving areas. Even more so, the company offers its own “studio” filled with ideas for your next 3D printed masterpiece. Edible 3D printed biodegradable dishes are not only cool (and delicious), the idea is environmentally friendly.
Companies like FOODINK have even more ambitious plans. The company has every aspect of its restaurant 3D printed. The tables, chairs, utensils, and of course food are all 3D printed (all nine courses to be exact). In the very near future, expect to see more pop-up and long term restaurants with fully operational 3D printed food experiences.
You will have more customizable food experiences
Across multiple industries, one of the greatest appeals of 3D printing is the fact that it is highly customizable to users' needs or preferences allowing for hyper-customization. The same applies to the 3D printing food industry. In the near future, based on your own biological information, taste preferences, and health needs you will be able to print food that is just right for you. Take a look around the tech/restaurant world and you are beginning to see this come into fruition.
Now, if you do not have a seafood allergy, you probably enjoy sushi from time to time. However, would you ever try 3D printed sushi? The restaurant Sushi Singularity recently made waves with its futuristic, geometric 3D printed restaurant concept in Tokyo, Japan. Expected to open in 2020, the restaurant uses a customer's biological samples to build a meal that fills the nutritional requirements of the attendee.
Potential restaurant attendees must submit their information ahead of time before entering the restaurant. When you arrive at the restaurant, a CNC machine, a 3D printer, and robotic arms will prepare your fresh but futuristic sushi sculpture. Expect to eat reimagined 3D printed classics, like salmon, uni, and octopus.
3D printing could feed our future space travelers
Traveling to Mars and beyond will be no easy feat. One of the biggest challenges with extended space travel is finding a way to properly travel with resources as things can get really expensive and heavy fast. 3D printing could become a viable option. NASA is already looking into using 3D printing to help us colonize Mars, using additive manufacturing to construct labs and living quarters on the big red planet. As good food is hard to come by in space, why not just 3D print it?
Silicon Valley startup BeeHex has used additive manufacturing technology to 3D print delicious cheesy pizza. The NASA spin-off company uses a pre-programmed robot to create these 3D printed pizzas with the aims of offering a quick, and more tasty alternative to traditional space food.
However, food options could become far more diverse in space thanks to the growing amount of technology available. Russian cosmonauts in 2019 fed meat cells into a 3D printer allowing them to 3D print meat in space for the first time while at the International Space Station. Astronauts could have a host of healthier and space mission friendly meals in the next couple of years. No online delivery required.
You can buy a food 3D printer right now
That’s right, there is currently a good amount of food 3D printers on the market at the moment able to create a wide range of things from chocolate sculptures, pastries, and even pasta. Yet, we do not recommend going out to buy a food 3D printer just yet. The industry is still very young, making most of the printers cost thousands of dollars if you want decent performance. We recommend waiting a few years before going out to buy a food 3D printer. Yet if you have $3900 burning a hole in your pocket, then you should check out byFlow’s 3D printer and 3D printing suite.
This printer will help you create a host of desserts and savory dishes that will wow your partner's next time they come over to eat. Even more so byFlow has thousands of designs to help to get started on your journey of becoming a 3D printing master chef.
To the future
3D food printing will go on to have a massive impact on our world and your kitchens in due time. It will radically reshape food production practices, helping us reduce the waste of food, decreasing food inventory, and help us recycle existing food all because the food will be created on-demand. Healthier food options will be more accessible to all, even allowing for creations that can be tailored to your own biology.
And, of course, 3D printing is opening the doors to more creative food experiences for everyone. Some start-ups and experts have even gone on to argue that 3D printing could eventually be used to take on future global food shortage challenges. Nevertheless, the technology available to 3D print food is still in its early stages and is inaccessible. However, it is not too far off to believe that food 3D printers could eventually become ubiquitous as the microwave in your kitchen.
How do you think 3D printing will change the food industry? What dishes would you like to see 3D printed?