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Food design and printing with 3D printers is a young but developing field. Quince Market Insights projects that between now and 2030, the global market for 3D printed food will grow at a CAGR of roughly 48%.
3D printed food is produced using conventional 3D printers and soft, eatable materials that can be extruded through a nozzle. The printer deposits food material layer by layer on a computer-generated model to create a final three-dimensional entree. Food researchers must experiment with ingredient formulations and material characteristics like viscosity to achieve the desired structure, flavor, and texture.
The advantages and disadvantages of 3D printed food that are propelling industry growth are listed below:
Advantages of 3D Printed Food
Cooks and chefs can experiment with never-before-created textures and designs thanks to additive manufacturing. For instance, engineers at Columbia University recently printed a slice of cheesecake with a complex internal structure that only required seven ingredients. With the aid of 3D printing, striking patterns, intricate hues and shapes, and even intricate logos can be produced.
A 3D printer can extrude food into intricate shapes.
For patients with special dietary needs, or to increase the variety of meals available or satisfy dietary requests, personalized nutrition is crucial in healthcare settings. It is possible to create food “inks” that deliver precisely the correct number of calories, vitamins, and other nutrients for each meal. Even time-released ingredients are sometimes used in these preparations.
People with dysphagia, which makes swallowing difficult, frequently consume their meals after they have been blended, making the overall dining experience unpleasant. Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney in Australia have developed solid, 3D meals made from pureed food that is still healthy to consume and has a pleasing texture.
Japanese researchers have 3D printed a Wagyu beef cut that resembles the real thing exactly. The team built stacks of living cells to precisely replicate the intricate structures of the muscle tissue, blood vessels, and fat using a CAD model to 3D-print the biomaterials that produced the exact shape and composition of the steak.
Reducing food waste
No material is wasted because 3D printing makes it possible to use the exact amount of needed materials. When food is wasted in other circumstances, it can be recycled by being used as a raw material for 3D printed food. For instance, Upprinting Food gathers food that would otherwise go to waste, prepares it, and then uses 3D printing to create intricately patterned, flavorful biscuits
Unconventional food consumption
Unusual foods, such as strange-looking but nutrient-dense plants or protein-rich ingredients like crickets, can be 3D-printed into more enticing food products with enticing flavors and textures, which is an excellent way to present them to the public and encourage consumption.
NASA is seriously considering using 3D-printed food on manned spacecraft for more extended missions, like trips to Mars. Automating this technology would make it possible to cook wholesome meals in space. NASA teamed up with private-sector businesses to create the 3D printers and food inks needed for this, including pizza.
In addition to the savings in tools, the 3D printer has a good idea of operating on its own. It only needs an operator to start the program and finish the steps. Because it prints independently in 3D, your teams have time to do other production tasks.
An ideal scenario in the kitchen is to launch the 3D printer at the service’s end and retrieve the printed objects ready for the next service. Thus the 3D printing step is more easily integrated into the implementation schedule.
Freedom of design
If you already have a 3D printer, you already know the pleasure of being able to make (almost) anything and everything. You can also find great freedom in your production with 3D food printing.
However, there are two limits to your imagination:
- your ability to make the 3D file you need
- the properties of the material you are printing
At the Digital Pâtisserie, we have chosen to work on all 3d food printing technologies. For instance, we are developing a new powder-based 3D food printer to remove some of the constraints of the dough we push in the extruders. The powder acts as a support, allowing a wider variety of 3D models to be printed.
Which cook or pastry chef has not experienced the cold room battle? Finding space for production is sometimes a challenge! Often there needs to be more storage space, and building new ones costs quite a bit. And there is also an economic problem when you use the products sparingly.
You end up with immobilized money. Not to mention the quantities of products we must sometimes throw away when they are out of date…
Thanks to 3D printing, we can only produce the quantities we need when we need them. This eliminates a large part of the “cold stock”. When you have a 3D printer, you never produce a batch of the same parts again. On the contrary, we chain the production of one form after another depending on what is necessary.
Rather than store PAIs in your cold rooms and reserves, you will store the 3D files of your creations. The good news is that it takes up much less space! And if you want to change the form of production because you are launching a new range of dishes, you have nothing to throw away.
With the 3D printer, no more out of date stocks! By printing the quantities you need daily, you are rethinking how you produce and manage your inventory.
Bonus: Laser Cooking
As 3D printing companies broaden the possibilities for printing food in 3D, advancements are occurring quickly. These foods can now be laser-cooked thanks to new technology. A system created by Columbia University researchers uses infrared and blue light lasers to cook food that has been 3D printed to a “mathematically precise finish.”
They produced chicken samples using 3D printing and laser cooking with twice the moisture content of conventionally prepared and cooked chicken and the same flavor profile. ,
According to project leader James Blutinger, this is encouraging because “two blind taste testers preferred laser-cooked meat to the conventionally cooked samples, which shows the promise of this burgeoning technology.”
Disadvantages of 3D Printed Food
Not so many materials
Using a 3D printer today, no material can be printed. The same restriction applies to 3D printers for plastic, metal, and food.
It has to do with the printing method, first and foremost. For instance, purees or mixtures with good liquidity can only be printed using 3D printers that function like dough extruders.
Not all ingredients, typically meats, with fibers woven into fabrics, can be 3D printed in their original form. But depending on the method used, this is true for fruits and vegetables, which must be mashed or powdered.
Finally, it’s uncommon for printed materials to be infinitely recyclable. The properties of the materials are slightly altered by the use of the 3D printer, just like in any other manufacturing process.
Size of the prints
Large printed pieces are not the only thing the finish issue can affect. After the 3D printing process, a finishing step is frequently required. If you use a semi-liquid paste, you might consider cooking it or dehydrating it to get some of the water out of the printed object.
The powder coating phase of a 3D printing process that uses powder requires the removal of objects from the powder and remove excess powder.
This is something to consider during the part’s manufacturing process. To be clear, a 3D-printed object is no more finished than a baked white pie crust. In other words, 3D printing is only one step in the production of a dish.
The use of this technology does not replace the work of the pastry chef and cook. It is up to her/him to develop new ideas and create music using the machine’s potential.
As in a traditional dessert, one can choose to add flavors, colors, or even structure by using finishes like chablonnage, food varnish, coating, flocking, etc.
Easy to use?
We don’t always expect to talk about availability when we discuss machines run by computers. It is a fact, though, that there aren’t many food 3D printers, and getting one is a hassle. Of course, there are increasingly more 3d printed chocolate and related 3D printing services available, and we previously tried to identify them. However, a solution for 3D printing sweets, cookies, or dairy products is complex.
The ability to design your 3D model and get it ready for food 3D printers is another barrier to the growth of 3D printing of food. It takes a few hours to integrate the fundamentals if you have no experience with modeling (there are a mountain of video tutorials available). It can be quickly done with tools like Tinkercad or 3D Slash. Simply put, you need a 3D file to create the list of commands to send to the machine, and this file needs to adhere to several restrictions.
Additionally, there are several 3D file libraries created by qualified designers. But remember that these 3D models weren’t built for a 3D printer for food. For instance, using food dough to print 3D designs makes it challenging to print designs with overhangs.
There are frequent issues with withdrawal as well. We are not the only ones who believe that food 3D printing preparation software has yet to be created! We have some concepts for this. We’ll explain further here.
As we saw earlier in this article, personalization was one of the significant benefits of 3d printed food. You should logically look into other manufacturing techniques to produce in large quantities.
What is the most quantity that can be produced profitably using a 3D printer? This is a challenging inquiry because the solution largely depends on the chosen 3D model and the material. Calculating the production time needed to complete the series and contrasting it with the necessary time to make it by hand is a practical criterion.
Rapid prototyping is one of the main applications for 3D printing, typically marketed as a technology for quickly producing parts. This is undeniably true, for instance, when we look at the time needed to create a mold and produce a batch of plastic injection-molded parts. The work of food professionals makes this much less relevant.
Every minute matters in the kitchen… Therefore, we don’t like the lengthy steps. However, because 3D printers must produce hundreds or thousands of layers, producing twenty or one hundred pieces will take hours… You shouldn’t rely on the printer to bail you out if you run into trouble because it can never keep up with you!
The 3D printer’s advantage, however, is that it can complete these tasks independently, such as at night. To begin with the finishing stage of 3D printed objects, organizing its installation is much more acceptable.
Material inner structure
The claim is frequently made that 3D printed parts are less solid than those made using more conventional manufacturing methods. We can create unique destructured designs when your 3D print fails (for example, the piece peels off and moves on the set). This involves creating a layer overlaid on another layer, etc. The result is a stack of sheets if the layers do not stick well.
Solidity is desired in the 3D printing of food, especially for the forms that will be filled. But pastry chefs have a lot of experience using puff pastry, a well-known layered substance. Because of this, the drawback of 3D printing, in general, is less critical for 3D printers that print food.
We have now examined the pros and cons of 3D printing, which is edible. There are some challenges, and the market participants (printer manufacturers, services) are working to overcome them. The situation is not perfect, and a food 3D printer is not a panacea for every issue facing established restaurants. But when you accept the limitations of this new technology, just as we have integrated the limits of all other techniques in the kitchen, it’s a great tool.
Do you see any additional benefits to using food that has been 3D-printed?
Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page to let us know your ideas, and we would appreciate seeing pictures of your works of art! Sign up for our free weekly newsletter to receive all the latest 3D printing info in your email!