‘Printing Fresh’

– Madhav Bansal,

3rd Year MBBS,

Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhubaneswar.

“Mom I’m starving! Could you get me a snack please?”

“Sure Honey, give me a minute”

….Presses command Ctrl+P….

Isn’t it just bizarre how technology is penetrating into every aspect of our lives, so much so that we have started to count on 3D printed food now?

Imagine having a blue pizza because the restaurant’s ink ran out. Jokes apart, that’s not how 3D printers work though.

A food 3D printer heats up edible ingredients before 3D printing them on the build plate, layer by layer. Another option is to use ingredients in the form of a dry powder that is then solidified by the food 3D printer.

In the mid-1980s, a man named Charles W. Hull invented 3D printing. Since then, technology has advanced dramatically in terms of efficiency and affordability, allowing researchers to achieve some truly amazing feats.

Barilla, an Italian multinational food company held a competition in 2014 to honour the best 3D model creation for a new Barilla pasta.

Designers from 20 different nations submitted 216 pasta concepts in under two months, and Barilla released the winner design as a brand-new item!

Anjan Contractor, a mechanical engineer at Systems & Materials Research Corporation is working on 3D printing technology that could one day be capable of creating calorie-dense foods at cheap cost and with minimal waste. The concept is straightforward: the machine will print layers of carbs, proteins, and/or micro/macronutrients from small ‘cartridges’ to produce entirely nutritious meals for the consumer. This concept has the potential to be absolutely ground-breaking, transforming how we consume and even perceive food. Every year, an estimated 9 million people die from malnutrition and starvation or a hunger-related ailment. If this technology is successful, it might put a stop to it. As the cartridges can sit on a shelf for decades without rotting, the printer can also totally eliminate food waste.

NASA tendered Anjan Contractor a $125,000 funding to develop this invention, which could potentially assist astronauts to acquire food during deep space expeditions.

The phrase “universal food synthesiser,” coined by Anjan Contractor, was used to describe the printer. Every family on the planet has the possibility of purchasing a 3D food printer, claims Contractor. Families would simply need to buy nutritious, refillable cartridges from their neighbourhood supermarket that would include different powders and oils. Contractor claims that these packets could last for as long as 30 years!

Cartridges filled with Codes and Carbs

Customization is a promising prospect for 3D-printed food. Inks can be formulated with extremely high precision to create foods with specific nutrient content for individual needs. Textures can also be modified so the food is easier to swallow.

3D-printed food may have an impact on relieving hunger around the world, using abundant and easily sourced food types such as algae, which are rich in protein and antioxidants.

Recently, plant-based meat has been 3D printed to replicate the texture of actual meat, and a German enterprise utilized 3D printers to manufacture obtainable meals for elderly who struggle to consume solid foods.

With the help of a 3D food printer and a contemporary contort on the traditional use of cochayuyo, an algae found in Chile, New Zealand, and the South Atlantic; Robert Lemus, a professor at the University of Chile, and several students have created nutritious and edible figures that they hope children will enjoy eating, potentially reinventing the food market.

‘Tailor-made’ meals: 3D printing food provides for exactitude in terms of regulating the diversity and amount of minerals, vitamins, and calories each meal contains. This has the potential to be particularly useful in hospitals where limited diets are more prevalent, and it allows for easy patient personalization. It may be as easy as uploading a digital file over the internet to swap recipes. All that is essential are the same raw ingredients, printing configurations, and printing equipment.

Gone will be the days when recipes don’t come out as expected as they weren’t made with the right amount of ‘love’ as digitalised files can handle love, spices and everything in between perfectly!

To attain the uniformity necessary for extrusion, the edibles utilised in these printers must be pre-cooked or pre-processed. Financial, political, social, and environmental factors all contribute to insufficient food access. These constraints continue to apply to food created using 3D technology. If consumers continue to face unconstructive and unhelpful governments, a lack of social initiatives, aid and poverty, the promise of this technology seems illusory.

Even if printing food became technologically and sustainably feasible, patents could still come into play that might transform every printer component into cerebral parts, turning this technology into another capitalistic product.

In light of the way, the adoption of 3D printed food by experts and consumers is still in its nascent stages and has a long road ahead to go. This does not, however, preclude us from being in awe of these marvellous equipment and their fascinating culinary layouts.




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