Creating food is the most delicious application of 3D printing. Read this guide to learn more about 3d printed food and food 3D printers.
- What is 3D Printed Food?
- How to 3D Print Food?
- What Kinds of Food can be 3D Printed?
- Is It Safe to Eat 3D Printed Food?
- How is It Compared to “Normal” Dishes?
- What Professional Food 3D Printers Are There?
- What Consumer Food 3D Printers are There?
- How Long Does it Take To Print A Dish?
- Where is It Already being Used?
- Where Can I Go to Eat 3D Printed Food?
- How Much Does It Cost?
- Where to Buy the Ingredients?
- How to Create My Own Food Design?
- What Food Designs Do Already Exist?
- Can a Food 3D Printer also Cook?
- What Does the Future Look Like?
- How Does NASA 3D Print Food?
- What is a Stem Cell Burger?
- What are the Disadvantages?
- What are the Advantages?
3D Printed Food – Question #1: What is 3D Printed Food?
3D printed food is a way of preparing a meal in an automated additive manner. For this 3D printed pizza, the dough was printed with a food 3D printer. Afterward, tomato sauce was applied by the same food 3D Printer. Cheese and oregano were added by hand.
Of course, food 3D printing doesn’t stop at pizza. There are many more dishes available. If you want to take a look of what‘s possible in food 3D printing, please continue here.
3D Printed Food – Question #2: How Can I 3D Print Food?
Is there a special way to 3D print food? 3D printing food works much like a regular 3D printer in the sense that a print head extrudes material onto a surface. The piece can be any shape the designer wants, as long as it does not extend past the spacial limitations of the printer and the laws of physics.
However, the raw material does not come in spools like traditional plastic does for 3D printing. It has to have a certain degree of viscosity and must, therefore, be inserted into a syringe-like container for later extrusion. In the video above you can see a food 3D printer in action.
3D Printed Food – Question #3: What Kinds of Food can be 3D Printed?
Pretty much anything from sweet to salty to spicy. As long as the ingredients are puréed, it can be printed. This includes vegetables and fruit, dough or batter, candy, chocolate — even minced meat if you’re into this. And the list goes on.
If you’re looking for some mouth-watering 3D printed dishes, please click here.
Yes. Ideally, 3D printed food is nothing more than fresh, natural ingredients processed in such a way that it can be extruded through a nozzle onto a food-safe surface. As with any kitchen, you have to keep your space clean and maintain hygienic standards.
3D printed food (hopefully) uses fresh ingredients, so the final products should taste pretty good. The only thing that’s different is the texture.
Here’s an interesting example: Biozoon Food Innovations is a German company that has taken advantage of the new technology to create more enjoyable meals for seniors who are used to being served not-so-tasty combinations of puréed nourishment. The company uses fresh ingredients like chicken, carrots and other ingredients along with all the nutrients needed by seniors. It then breaks them down into a paste and then prints them onto a surface in the shape of the source ingredient: for example a chicken leg. An edible adhesive is added allowing the extruded paste to take on a three-dimensional shape. The product which is called “Smoothfood” is already being used by over one thousand senior citizen homes in Germany.
As of March 2017, there are only a handful professional food 3D printers – and most of them are still in the prototyping stage.
1. 3D Food Printer for Professionals: ChefJet Pro
3D Systems has created a food 3D printer called the ChefJet. It can create very intricate figures out of fine granulated sugar or chocolate for use as cake toppers or cocktail garnishes. The ChefJet can even print these sweet objects in color. The results are very cool geometric objects to look at which you can eat as soon you’re done gazing at their beauty. Unfortunately, the projects are still limited to a handful of professionals which explore the 3D printing food technology at the Culinary Labs at 3D Systems.
2. 3D Food Printer for Professionals: Cocojet
This food 3D printer was tailored for a collaboration with Hershey’s Chocolate and 3D Systems. This printer can 3D print chocolate. It caught the attention of mainstream media in 2015, but hasn’t surfaced commercially yet. Around this time the price was stated as between $ 10,000 to $ 50,000, but we haven’t confirmed this yet.
3. 3D Food Printer for Professionals: FoodForm 3D
Barcelona-based company Robots in Gastronomy offers an interesting approach. It’s a research and design group focusing on technology and gastronomy. The group includes Michelin Star Chefs, Industrial Designers, Interaction Designers, and High-End Kitchen Equipment Distributors. The group’s research has culminated in the creation of the Food Form 3D, a computer numerically controlled deposition robot capable of 3d printing edible materials. They have, for example, 3D printed pasta for Barilla.
So far, their 3D food printer not available to the public.
4. 3D Food Printer for Consumers: Bocusini
If you are looking for a 3D printer that’s already available, turn to the Bocusini. The Munich-based company Print2Taste from Germany had a very successful crowdfunding campaign in 2015. Since then, the Bocusini has evolved rapidly: They upgraded their printer to version 2.0 and offer a bigger selection of 3D printable food materials. You can also use a 3D scan system the creation of 3D busts or 3D printed wedding cake toppers. Bocusini also offers seminars in 3D food printing.
Price of this food 3D printer: Around $3,200.
As you can see from this list, dedicated consumer food 3D printers still are a rare breed.
1. 3D Food Printer for Consumers: PancakeBot
The original PancakeBot was made out of LEGO but, once the inventor realized the potential, he brought the pancake 3D printer to the World Maker Faire in New York. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, this food 3D printer is now publicly available. New features, including print speed control and a simpler user interface were added recently with the PancakeBot 2.0.
Price of this food 3D printer: $299.
2. 3D Food Printer for Consumers: Foodini
Although it has been around for quite some time, the Foodini from Natural Machines is not yet available.
Price of this food 3D printer: According to the Foodini FAQs, $4,000 for early production run units.
3. 3D Food Printer for Consumers: ByFlow Focus
The Focus from ByFlow is a different breed of 3D printer: It comes with interchangeable 3D printing heads, one being an extruder for 3D printed food. The food 3D printer can be folded into a compact suitcase and can be taken anywhere. The suitcase weighs 7 kg, is set up in 20 seconds and print-ready within 2 minutes. As with every multi-purpose 3D printer, it has to be properly calibrated.
Price of this food 3D printer: Roughly $3,700.
4. 3D Food Printer for Consumers: Choc Creator 2.0 Plus
As you might have guessed from the name, the Choc Creator series from XYZ Printing is focusing on 3D printing chocolate. There are two models available (Choc Creator V2.0 Plus and Choc Creator V2.0).
Price of this food 3D printer: Around $2,900.
5. 3D Food Printer for Consumers: WASP Delta Printers
Italian 3D printer company WASP offers some amazing additions to their renowned Delta 3D printers. Their ceramic and food 3D printer extruders are excellent tools and nicely integrated systems. You can even prepare gluten-free 3D printed meals with it.
Price of this food 3D printers: Extruders start at $250; printers at $2,400.
Unfortunately, 3D printing food takes a lot of time. The successfully funded Pancakebot, for example, 3D prints a pancake in around 4 minutes. This can mean cold served pancakes if you want to feed a family of four.
Natural Machines, makers of the Foodini 3D printer, claims to be able to 3D print food in under one minute. We imagine the quantity would be quite small, though, as the company states on the same website, that it would take about 20 minutes to 3D print a detailed chocolate figure.
Therefore, 3D printers are used mainly where you can prepare food in advance.
3D printed food is already being used in gourmet restaurants, haute cuisine, the molecular kitchen and bakeries as well as creating meals suitable for seniors (detailed above).
If you live in a small town, the chances are small. To enjoy 3D printed food, you have to make your way to a larger city. Even then, you might have trouble finding a place to try 3D printed food. Your best chances would be to try a high-tech, 3D printing or culinary convention, as the new technology hasn’t had widespread commercial success yet. Another option would be to just buy your food 3D printing device.
Also, two world-class chefs have opened a temporary restaurant in London in August 2016. They exquisite 3D printed food for a handful of guests. Read more about it here.
The third way is to attend a conference on 3D printed food – which are becoming more common. Check All3DP’s conference calendar here.
Food 3D printers are expensive with models like the PancakeBot costing nearly $300 and other models like the ByFlow Focus with a price of $3,700. Printers for commercial use like the ChefJet will cost between $5,000 and $15,000. On top of that, depending on the model, capsules containing special mixtures will have to be bought to accommodate the specific machine.
You can use ingredients from your grocery store. All you need to do is buy whatever you want to 3D print and turn it into a liquid with a suitable viscosity, and you’re ready to print. Systems like the “Foodini” will come with empty stainless steel capsules that you can then fill with your ingredients. While other printers, like the “Bocusini”, will require you to buy pre-filled cartridges like you do for your 2D paper printer at home.
The Bocusini food 3D printer or the PancakeBot, which 3D prints pancakes, provide easy to use software that lets you simply draw what you want the machine to print. This practical feature, unfortunately, is limited to a small set of 3D food printers. Most of the companies offering food 3D printers have recipe repositories where you can choose tested shaped for your 3D printed dishes.
If you want to make your own creation, ultimately, you’ll have to experiment with CAD programs to get to the shapes you want.
Since food 3D printers are designed to be user-friendly, the manufacturers post recipes along with the downloadable files suitable for their machine. They are easily accessible either through an app or the company’s website. The designs are of anything you can imagine, from Eiffel Tower to detailed geometric patterns, to Yoda’s head and much more.
Most methods to 3D print food don’t cook it automatically. For example, if you are printing a pizza, the printer will extrude the dough and tomato sauce, but won’t cook it. You then have to manually put the pizza in the oven. However, the “PancakeBot”, which is a 3D printer available for only printing pancakes, extrudes the batter directly onto the hotplate. Unfortunately, this process also isn’t completely automatic, as the pancake needs to be manually flipped.
Companies like Natural Machines see the future of food 3D printing as a faster and more precise operation, possibly even including more textures. You’re probably asking yourself, “I bet they’ll never be able to 3D print a steak”. Well if fact, a US startup called “Modern Meadow” is working on a technique to 3D print meat, without having to slaughter an animal at all. The process includes using stem cells to create what they call “
The process includes using stem cells to create what they call “bio-ink”, which is then inserted into a nozzle similar to that of an inkjet 2D printer. The “live” bio-ink is then extruded into an agarose gel mold. After that, the mold is let into a “bioreactor” in which the bio-ink, consistent of certain cell types, matures into the desired organ tissue after which the agarose gel is removed leaving us with the end product. Real Meat. This process is also being developed in the field of medicine and could someday help grow an organ needed by someone, from their very own cells. Being in its early stages of development, the process takes several days and costs a lot of money. But in the future, we may be able to watch our steak dinner grow in front of our eyes and be ready to cook in a matter of minutes while not having to kill any animals.
This process is also being developed in the field of medicine and could someday help grow an organ needed by someone, from their very own cells. Being in its early stages of development, the process takes several days and costs a lot of money. But in the future, we may be able to watch our steak dinner grow in front of our eyes and be ready to cook in a matter of minutes, without the need use animals.
NASA is planning missions to Mars. According to NASA, these missions will take from between one year to three years to complete. During that time, astronauts need to eat and NASA is looking into ways to enhance their life support systems which include meals.
The agency has looked to additive manufacturing techniques to solve this problem by endorsing a company called Systems and Materials Research Corporation based in Texas. The company has already come up with a system that prints pizza out of a combination of powders containing the necessary nutrients needed by humans. This is an important step in space travel, as NASA plans to delve deeper into space on longer and longer missions. Additive manufacturing could also come in handy when building bases and spacecraft in space or on other planets.
Mark Post is the leader of a research group at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. His team has managed to grow a hamburger patty using stem cells taken from a cow. In a complicated process, several layers of beef were grown and then, using a burger recipe, minced into a patty. The patty weighed a total of 142g and cost about $310,500 to cultivate. That’s an expensive burger. There were reports of the burger looking quite authentic, but being very chewy and not very juicy, as there is no fat contained in the cultivated meat. The research team estimates the product will be available by 2020.
In regular 3D printing, there are two key components: speed and reliability. With 3D printing food, you add two more.
- Reliability: You want to have every 3D print as precise as the last one. With 3D printing food, the needed tolerances can be achieved. But, the result usually is limited in the texture – unless you can 3D print fragile structures with sugar.
- Speed: 3D printing a whole meal in a restaurant takes a lot of time… and if there‘s one thing chefs don’t have, it’s time! All in all, 3D printing food still is way too slow for mass production.
- Cost: Specialized food 3D printers are expensive. If you want to save money, you can mount any 3D printing food nozzle mounted on your regular printer. But only the specialized food 3D printers will give you satisfactory results.
- Safety: When it comes to food, you don’t want to play with your health. So every aspect of a food 3D printer has to be clean and food-safe. Read more about it here.
3D printed food will enable us to reinvent our culinary ways on many levels from texture to shape and artistic vision. The new technology also offers many possibilities to make the consumption of products like meat more sustainable and space travel more comfortable by introducing new ways of preparing a meal in space.
The possibilities are endless and are sure to continue to surpass our expectations in the future to come.
License: The text of "Gourmet’s Essential Guide to 3D Printed Food" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.