Researchers develop edible, 3D-printed QR codes embedded inside cookies

Cookies' exterior appearance doesn't change.
Nergis Firtina

Invented in 1994 by the Japanese automotive company Denso Wave, QR codes (an initialism for quick response code) make our lives much easier. In general, QR codes frequently contain information for a tracker, location, or identifier that directs users to a website or application.

Well, would you like a QR code embedded in your food? Because researchers from Osaka University developed “interiqr” — a novel three-dimensional printing method of embedding edible QR codes — in the interior of cookies.

But why?

The food business frequently uses tags with data. They can be as simple as fruit stickers or as sophisticated as radio frequency identification tags that employ electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track objects.

The race is on to create edible food tags that are non-toxic, don't alter the flavor or appearance of the food, and can be read without destroying the food itself as the globe tries to reduce excess packaging. The Osaka University study team sought to address each of these concerns.

“Many foods can now be produced using 3D printers,” explains Yamato Miyatake, lead author of the study in a statement.

“We realized that the insides of edible objects such as cookies could be printed to contain patterns of empty spaces so that, when you shine a light from behind the cookie, a QR code becomes visible and can be read using a cellphone.”

No changes

The taste and flavor difficulties are resolved by using a QR code that is created from the cookie itself as the tag. Even better, the cookie's exterior appearance hasn't changed at all because all of the information is located inside the meal. At every point during the trip of the cookie from production to the stomach, producers, merchants, and consumers can easily access the data since a basic backlight can be employed to make the QR code visible.

“Our 3D printing method is a great example of the digital transformation of foods, which we hope will improve food traceability and safety,” says the senior author of the study, Kosuke Sato.

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“This technology can also be used to provide novel food experiences through augmented reality, which is an exciting new field in the food industry.”


We present interiqr, a method that utilizes the infill parameter in the 3D printing process to embed information inside the food that is difficult to recognize with the human eye. Our key idea is to utilize the air space or secondary materials to generate a specific pattern inside the food without changing the model geometry. As a result, our method exploits the patterns that appear as hidden edible tags to store the data and simultaneously adds them to a 3D printing pipeline. Our contribution also includes the framework that connects the user with a data-embedding interface through the food 3D printing process, and the decoding system allows the user to decode the information inside the 3D printed food through backlight illumination and a simple image processing technique. Finally, we evaluate the usability of our method under different settings and demonstrate our method through the example application scenarios.

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