Food Printer. That's Right. They Are Making Food Printable

by Jerrico_Usher

In the not so distant future, you may be shopping online for a new type of "food recipe", one that comes like an eBook right to your food printer.

I wrote about the 3D printer for non food objects recently, but there is a new type of printer just entering it's infancy- The Food Printer!

The 3D printer was a great invention, one that's made home manufacturing and prototype building child's play. The next logical step in printing 3D objects is of course, food! Food printing and physical non food object printing each have their own limitations and challenges, but the food printer is just getting started where the 3D printer has been around for decades.

There are several organizations that are working on ways to print out food and even reshape and infuse nutrients into things you'd not think to "print" out like broccoli and other vegetables that make it better for your children!

In this article I'm going to give you some insights into an amazing new trend that's developing mainly in cooking schools of the upper crust and behind closed doors in labs all over the world. This trend is the ever increasing evolution of food printing that mimics Star Trek's food replicator!

Fod Printer
Fod Printer

3D Prototype Printers Are Already Here, But Food- That's a New One!

We've all heard about the star trek food replicators, but those are about a decade or two away. That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't technologies right now that work in very similar ways. The 3D printer is a printer that can literally print and fuze micro layers of materials into a fully assembled piece of equipment.

This technology is currently being used as a sort of prototype builder. It can print deep layers. The principal is simple.

Take anything and I mean anything with as many different materials (metal, plastic, etc...) in it and slice it into 10 thousand layers. If you have print heads containing the different materials as essentially powder that can be laid down and heated as the next layer is applied even in "coats" in turn i.e. the metal print head does it's layer after the plastic head draws it's stuff up then you can print things out- food or otherwise. Food is a more complex concept, however as there is baking and perfection of taste involved.

The printers take forever but they can successfully "print" out anything.

Taking this technology to the next logical step is introducing "Food Printing".

M cookie

What's Printing Out For Dinner Hunny?

Well, the researchers at the Cornell Creative Machines Lab have been hard at work developing a 3D Food printer they call the Fab@Home.

The way it works is the printer prints food in the form of "Inks" (not literally ink) that are used in the same manner as the 3D printers and what you end up with is digitally designed food that has an amazing assortment of uses. Many of the foods created use pastes created from icing or even tortilla dough. The creations currently still need to be deep fried to harden them but in the future they could come out fully cooked and shaped!

I'd be happy with a printer that can print ON food! This is already in mainstream use by the bakeries where they can scan in your image and the printer spray paints your image directly on the frosting with food coloring "inks". The food printer takes this to the 3D level by spraying and fusing layers of food until you have a 3D rendered product.

This new fab@home printer is the next step - it actually makes the cake too. They are working on a way to literally cook the layers as they lay them down so it would in essence be the closest thing we'll see in our lifetime to a replicator concept for food.

So far they've only been experimenting with soft foods such as cheese and frosting but once perfected the cooking elements (pun) will not be hard to conceptualize and make work.

Are you excited about the future now? This is going to be a reality in the next few years. In fact in 10 years you will see the world much like the baby boomers see the digital world of today- one that changed the landscape substantially and transformed our version of reality!

Mechanical engineers are collaborating with the French Culinary Institute to develop the technology.

How Does It Work?

They first take food and convert it to it's basic mixture format. They load it into a sort of printer cartridge like a toner cartridge and pump the ingredients through a syringe. From there the computer uses a drafting concept to create the food, changing heads to change colors and even ingredients.

Current Printing Methods With Frosting
Current Printing Methods With Frosting

Food Silk Screening

Depending on the food being made and type they will likely have a sort of silk screen printing concept going where one print head will "paint" or "print" it's components into place in the first microscopically thin layer, then another print head will fill in it's own ingredients.

They may have them working simultaneously if they can figure out how to do it without one print head running into another. The food printing is done via a CAD designed blueprint (computer aided drafting blueprint), or design that is fed into the program.

The computer can then slice the design into layers and print it out one layer at a time fusing the last to the next and in this case- cooking the ingredients together.

It may need to cook them but not all the way to allow for the sections not to over cook layers. It's not exactly like melting metals or plastics together when it comes to food. More than likely the cooking part may happen separately. A cake could essentially be created into a thick batter that can stand on it's own while printed, you'd cook that portion, let it cool, then put it back in the printer to automate painting and frosting the cake- even adding cool designs in 3D.

Imagine having one of these in your home and simply putting your recipe into the computer formatted based on a specific standards. To take it one step further, imagine instead of cooking that recipe you like from the site- you download a file that plugs into your food printer and it simply makes it. You'd purchase temporary use recipe aps!

Your only responsibility will be to make sure you have certain ingredients for it in the cartridge. Likely you will be able to swap out cartridges and they will sell you the filler ingredients in a certain format for the machine to use.The likelihood is that the recipe downloads would be sent directly to the machine itself which would be jacked into your wi-fi internet.

Some sort of anti-piracy concept would have to be created so your machine can use it but you can't duplicate or store/save the recipe (unless you pay for a permanent version which is unlikely to be available at first).

They may have an LCD screen with a limited internet access screen that connects via broadband to their site or service and you'd just say, wow I want to get this recipe or that. You may be able to rent the recipe like you rent videos online- it would expire after the food was prepared or you could permanently buy the recipe. How cool would that be. Since the machine would only need to view the schematic it could be encrypted and likely would display what's in the recipe so you know if you want it or are allergic to anything in it.

It's also likely that the basic recipes this device will make will not be elaborate at first but will evolve in time as any technology does.

One more innovation of food this device promises is the ability to "shape" your food. For example broccoli could be minced and printed into transformer shapes even sweetened with fruit juices (healthier) so kids don't realize they are eating vegetables at all! How about some Tetris vegetables?

Updated: 07/20/2012, Jerrico_Usher
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Jerrico_Usher on 04/26/2012

thanks @Katie :)

@Terri let me know how your contest goes :) you should write a wizzle and include pictures hint hint :)

TerriRexson on 04/26/2012

We'll probably mod our 3d printer to print food at some point. Shame we don't have it already, then I could easily will the cake decorating competition this Saturday ;)

katiem2 on 04/26/2012

WOW, cool this will no doubt lead to amazing food art and fun. Thanks for bringing the food printer to our attention, great info.

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