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The Future Technology: 3D Food

The future technology: 3D Food

3D printing which is also known as additive manufacturing ,turns digital 3D models into solid objects by building them up in layers. The technology was first invented in the 1980s, and since that time has been used for rapid prototyping (RP). However, in the last few years, 3D printing has additionally started to evolve into a next-generation manufacturing technology that has the potential to allow the local, on-demand production of final products or parts thereof.

The 3D printing of food

The 3D printing of food has been an evolving method of food production over recent years, and the uses within this application are set to grow even more. Additive Manufacture within the food industry has allowed designers combine their 3D digital design knowledge with food to produce shapes, textures, tastes and forms that were previously found too challenging to create by hand, all whilst still being edible.

This method of manufacture could also prove to be a healthy alternative that’s good for the environment. Proteins from algae, beet leaves and insects can be converted into edible products. It is also a stop forward for food customization, and even NASA is using this technology to look at ways to 3D print food in space.

The Global Market

The Global market for 3D printed food is anticipated to be driven by a need for mass customisation, as 3D printing saves both time and waste. The actual nutrients themselves can even be customised, so consumers can benefit from tailor made food for their dietary requirements.

Currently, it is said that all microwave pancakes in the Netherlands are 3D printed, and its looking possible that there could be a rise in the popularity in 3D food printing machines, much like microwave ovens rose to power years ago.

However, this method of food creation also has its restraints. Many food ingredients used for 3D printing need to be turned into paste or melted, which is limiting as there many foods which cannot be turned into a paste, or melted. The process can also be rather slow, and also needs to be cooled before the food can be eaten. 3D printing food has the potential trump many current food customization techniques, though the manufacturing cost is quite high.

Potential Consumers

The market for this method of food manufacture can be broken down to the application of the food product, ingredients used and the country or area in which the food is used. One particular application could be the creation of foods with specific nutritional values whilst being easier to eat for the elderly. 3D printed carrots are said to be easy to chew and swallow. Other applications include domestic cooking, catering and personalized chocolates.

3-D printed food is actually perfect for elderly people. Since all food needs to come out of a printer nozzle, everything has to be paste-based and soft. Plus, the ingredients can be tailored for any number of nutritional compositions, like moderating the protein or carbohydrate content in whatever you’re printing.

3D printing is already being used for bakery products, coffee, ice cream and confectionary. Confectionary in particular is believed to be one industry where 3D printing could massively grow in popularity. Products such as chocolate and sweets are believed to be very popular among young children and adults alike.

Key Players

There’s a fair amount of companies who are getting involved with this new way of producing food. Some of the key players include:

  • Philips
  • Electrolux
  • Barilla
  • Nestle
  • NASA
  • Hershey's
  • Choc Edge
  • 3D Systems
  • ZMorph

Maybe in the future you could buy your own customized 3D printed chocolate bar just as easily as you can buy your favorite snack at the corner shop, or even create your own from your own machine at home! That’s food for thought.