3D Printed Food FAQ – 20 Frequently Asked Questions

3d printed food

3D printing food is one of the coolest applications of 3D printing. Made from fresh ingredients, 3D printed food can be nutritious and delicious. Read our FAQ about 3d printed food and food 3D printers. 

 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 applied with a food 3D printer. Afterwards, tomato sauce was 3D printed by the same machine. Cheese and oregano were applied by hand.

2. How to 3D Print Food?

3D printing food works much like a regular 3D printer in the sense that material is extruded through a print head onto a surface. A dish can be printed in 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, it does not come in spools like traditional plastic does for 3D printing. It has to have a certain degree of viscosity and must therefore, in most cases, be inserted into a syringe-like container to be extruded. See the video for more information.

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 would include vegetables and fruit, any kind of dough or batter, candy, chocolate. And the list goes on.

If you’re looking for some mouth-wetting 3D printed dishes, please click here.

4. Is 3D Printed Food Safe to Eat?

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.

5. “Normal” Dishes compared to 3D Printed Food


3D printed food (hopefully) uses fresh ingredients, so the final products supposedly taste pretty good. The only thing that’s different is the texture.

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 or carrots and other ingredients along with all the nutrients needed by seniors, 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.

6. Professional Food 3D Printers

As of March 2016, there’s only a handful professional food 3D printers – and most of them are still in the prototype stage.

Professional Food 3D Printer #1: Cocojet

This food 3D printer is a collaboration from Hershey’s Chocolate and 3D Systems. This printer is tailored for 3D printing chocolate. The price lies between $ 10,000 to $ 50,000. It’s not commercially available yet.

Professional Food 3D Printer #2: ChefJet

3D Systems has created a food 3D printer called the ChefJet which creates very intricate figures out of fine granulated sugar or chocolate for use as cake toppers or cocktail garnishes. The ChefJet can even print the 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 seems to have stalled due to changes at 3D Systems.

Professional Food 3D Printer #3: Food Form 3D

Robots in Gastronomy has an interesting approach. It’s a research and design group focusing on the intersection of 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. Currently, it’s not available to the public.

7. Consumer Food 3D Printers

As you can see from this list, dedicated consumer food 3D printers still are a rare breed.

Consumer Food 3D Printer #1: 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, the printer is now publically available.

Price: $299 from Pancakebot.

Consumer Food 3D Printer #2: Foodini

Although it’s around for quite some time, the Foodini from Natural Machines is not yet available. Currently, it‘s undergoing a test by chef Paco Perez, who won several Michelin stars for his restaurants in Barcelona.

Price: To be confirmed, probably somewhere between $1000 to $1500.

Consumer Food 3D Printer #3: Focus

The Focus from Flow is a different kind of 3D printer: It comes with interchangeable 3D printing heads, one being an extruder for 3D printed food. The 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.

Price: Also, this 3D printer is not yet available to the public.

Consumer Food 3D Printer #4: Bocusini

Bocusini is made by Print2Taste in Germany. It had a very successful crowdfunding campaign and is selling the first batch to the consumers now.

Price 1.963,50 €, available for pre-order.

Consumer Food 3D Printer #5: Choc Creator

As you might have guessed from the name, the Choc Creator series from XYZ Printing is focussing on 3d printing chocolate. There are two models available (Choc Creator V2.0 Plus and Choc Creator V2.0).

Price: You have to contact the sales team to place an order; the price range is around $4000.

8. How Long Does it Take To 3D Print A Dish?


3D printing food takes quite some time to process. The successfully funded Pancakebot, in 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.

9. Where is 3D Printed Food Already being Used?


3D printed food is already being used in gourmet restaurants, haute cuisine, and molecular kitchen, and bakeries as well as in the aforementioned area of creating meals suitable for seniors.

10. Where Can I Go to Eat 3D Printed Food?


If you live in a small town, the chances are that you won’t be able to get your hands on anything of the sort unless you 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 own food 3D printing device.

Also, two world-class chefs have opened a temporal restaurant in London in August 2016. They exquisite 3D printed food for a handful of guests. Read more about it here.

11. How Much Does 3D Printed Food Cost?

Food 3D printers are expensive with models like the Pancakebot costing nearly $300 and other models like the Foodini with a planned price at about $2000. Printers for commercial use like the ChefJet will cost between $5000 and $10000. On top of that, depending on the model, capsules containing special mixtures will have to bought to accommodate the specific machine.

12. Where to Buy Ingredients for 3D Printed Food?


You can use ingredients found at the 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 own 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.

13. How Can I Create my Own 3D Printable Food-Design?

The Bocusini or the Pancakebot, which 3D prints pancakes, provide easy to use software that lets you simply draw what you want the machine to print.

14. What 3D Printable Food Designs Do Already Exist?


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 Towers, to detailed geometric patterns, to Yoda’s head and much more.

15. Can Food 3D Printers also Cook?

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 but 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.

16. What Does the Future of 3D Printed Food Look Like?

Company’s 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 “bioink”, which is then inserted into a nozzle similar to that of an ink jet. The “live” bioink is then extruded into an agarose gel mold. After that, the mold is let into a “bioreactor” in which the bioink, 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 while not having to kill any animals.

17. How Does NASA 3D Print Food?


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 includes 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.

18. What is a Stem Cell Burger?


Mark Post is the leader of a research group at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. His team has managed to grown a hamburger patty using stem cells taken from a cow. In a complicated process, several layers of beef is 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.

19. The Disadvantages of 3D Printing  Food

In regular 3D printing, there are two key components: speed and reliability. With 3D printing food, you have to add two more.

  1. 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 is limited in the texture – unless you can 3D print fragile structures with sugar.
  2. Speed: 3D printing a whole meal in a restaurant takes a lot of time… and if there‘s one thing chefs don’t have, then it’s time! All in all, 3D printing food still is way too slow for mass production.
  3. Cost: A specialized food 3D printers still is expensive. If you want to save money, you can mount any 3D printing food nozzle mounted on your regular printer. But the specialized food 3D printers will give you better results.
  4. 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.

20. The Advantages of 3D Printing Food

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.