Updated: May 14
Food presentation and food appearance , its customization for individuals , is a big trend in the food industry nowadays. So far , food customization and creative designs have required hand-made skills, which results in low production rate and high cost. 3D food printing can overcome this problem by providing the necessary tools for creative food design, even for home users. 3D food printing has enabled some intricate designs which cannot be accomplished with traditional food manufacturing. Let's study the top trends in Food Styling & presentation that is revamping the Future of Food with 3D Food Printing
From just a digital file, an actual solid 3-dimension object can be created using 3d printing technology, which is among the most recent technologies that have applications across various industries. 3D food printing is the process of manufacturing food products using a variety of additive manufacturing techniques. Most commonly, food grade syringes hold the printing material, which is then deposited through a food grade nozzle layer by layer. The most advanced 3D food printers have pre-loaded recipes on board and also allow the user to remotely design their food on their computers and even phones . Brand logos, text, signatures, pictures can now be printed on some food products like pastries and coffee. Complex geometric shapes have also been printed, mainly using sugar. With 3D printing, chefs can now turn their visual inspirations into signature culinary creations.
Another benefit is being able to print nutritious meals in shapes that appeal to children aka toy-inspired food. The food can be customized in shape, colour, texture, flavour or nutrition, which makes it very useful in various fields , such as space exploration and even healthcare. Although, the technology is today benefiting the baking industry a great deal. This is because today, 3D printing technology is being used to make creatively designed foodstuffs, including candies, sugar decorations, and chocolate delicacies, just to name a few. 3D printing has become tremendously popular of late, to make cookie cutters in more economical, convenient, and cost-effective fashion , and that is just the tip of the iceberg!
So what are some of the foods created using 3d printing?
Chocolate – Thanks to new tech advancements, you can now make chocolates using 3d printers. Despite the fact that chocolate printers can be considerably expensive, this does not stop professionals from coming up with cake decorations. ChocoByte, for instance, used to be a small tool, which was used to make chocolates. The chocolate medium was heated a hot water bath or microwave to make it ideal for the printer. This allowed you to make a single chocolate bar in as little as 10 minutes or less depending the printer’s brand and model. However, modern, more effective versions (including prototypes that are still being developed) have hit the market. This chocolate can also be shaped into various designs using a 3d-printed cutter or even used in between pieces of cookies designed using a 3d printed cookie cutter.
Cake decorations, centerpieces, and sugar candies – Today, we also have 3D printers that can create cake decorations. Centerpieces, and sugar candies. This involves spreading the powdered sugar coating ingredients on your printer, spraying food color, flavorants, and water to make a fine paste that can solidify. These printers are highly ideal for professional bakers and cake decoration designers. ChefJet is a good example of a printer designed to do just this.
3D Food Printing with Puréed foodstuffs – Foodini is a good example of printers that use thick liquids or puréed materials as the printing medium. The printer turns this medium into various shapes that would consume way much more time to make were you to use your bare hands. How nutritious the resulting food is will be dependent on your purée’s composition. However, this printer is mostly used in the selected places in commercial settings.
Food projects for NASA’s group – Have you ever wondered what astronauts survive on when out there conducting their space missions? Well, one might argue that the last human space mission was controversially years or decades ago, but space mission projects remain active in many countries of the world. And in case NASA was to send a manned spaceship in their next mission to explore planet Mars, oxygen wouldn’t be the astronauts sole most important concern. Food would certainly be a huge concern too. But it would require more than the conventional refrigeration method to preserve food in the hotter planet near the core of the milky way galaxy. In this case, 3d printing could be highly resourceful. This would involve packaging dry food nutrients, which would then be mixed with water to and some flavouring agents to create a printing medium to create 3d printed food in Space.
Meat printing – This might wow you as it did me, but yes, meat can actually be printed! This is because meat comes from living animal cells. It is based on the fact that unspecialised stem cells can be used to produce more specialized cells upon being correctly stimulated. For example, a cow’s stem cell might be triggered to manufacture muscle cells. Although the technique is still undergoing extensive experiments, it will be prudent in the near future. 3D printers such as the bio-printer have actually been shown to be promising in the future production of 3d printed meat.
There are three general areas that impact precise and accurate food printing:
Materials/ Ingredients (viscosity, powder size): The type of food available to print is limited by the printing technique.
Process parameters (nozzle diameter, printing speed, printing distance),
Post-processing methods (baking, microwaving, frying)
1. Extrusion Based Printing Technique : Common ingredients used in extrusion based printing are inherently soft enough to extrude from a syringe/printhead and possess a high enough viscosity to retain a shape.In certain cases, powdered ingredients (protein, sugar, etc.) are added to increase viscosity, e.g. adding flour to water creates a paste that can be printed. Inherently soft materials include:
Certain ingredients that are solid can be used by melting and then extruding the ingredient, e.g. chocolate.
2. Selective Laser Sintering enables the construction of complex shapes and models and the ability to create different food textures. It is limited by the range of suitable food materials, namely powdered ingredients. Due to this limitation, selective laser sintering has been used primarily for creating sweets/candies.
3. Inkjet printing is used for surface filling or image decoration. By utilizing gravity, edible food ink is dropped onto the surface of the food, typically a cookie, cake, or other candy. This is a non-contact method, hence the printhead does not touch the food protecting the food from contamination during image filling. The ink droplets may consist of a broad range of colours allowing users to create unique and individualized food images. Inkjet printers can be purchased for household or commercial use, and industrial printers are suitable for mass production.
In the post-processing phase, printed food may require additional steps before consumption. This includes processing activities such as baking, frying, cleaning, etc. This phase can be one of the most critical to 3D printed food, as the printed food needs to be safe for consumption. An additional concern in post processing is the deformation of the printed food due to the strain of these additional processes.
To conclude, 3D printing technology is already being applied in baking and food production as we speak, even though not as directly as it ought to be. And with inspiration from the pointers above, one thing’s for sure – the world can be a better place when people realize that the advantages of using modern high-tech printers not only in the preparation of food, but also in its production. Despite the various drawbacks such as the suspicions on safety, the pros largely seem to overshadow the cons. Hence, 3D printing might remain a mainstream approach of making foodstuffs; anyway, it’s just a matter of time. Nonetheless, we can make the most of what we have in our homes, office places, and commercial eateries before that happens. We can utilize it in making cookie cutters for our delicious treats!
Existing food products in the market such as chocolates in various shapes could easily be scanned and the obtained 3D models could be used to replicate those products. These 3D models could then be disseminated via Internet leading to copyright infringement. There are laws regulating copyright issues but it is not clear whether they will be sufficient to cover all aspects of a field like 3D food printing . That said, 3D food printing is definitely a top trend and the future of food .
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