The use of 3D printers has the potential to revolutionize the way food is manufactured within the next 10 to 20 years, experts from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) are claiming.
According to a July 12th symposium at IFT15: Where Science Feeds Innovation hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in Chicago, advances in 3D printed technology will radically change the way food is produced, impacting everything from how military personnel get food on the battlefield to how long it takes to get a meal from the computer to your table.
“The price of 3D printers has been steadily declining, from more than USD 500,000 in the 1980s to less than USD 1,000 today for a personal-sized device, making them increasingly available to consumers and manufacturers,” researchers said.
“No matter what field you are in, this technology will worm its way in,” said Hod Lipson, a professor of engineering at Columbia University and co-author of the book Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing.
“The technology is getting faster, cheaper and better by the minute. Food printing could be the killer app for 3D printing,” said Lipson.
For example, Lipson said, users could choose from a large online database of recipes, put a cartridge with the ingredients into their 3D printer at home, and it would create the dish just for that person.
The user could customise it to include extra nutrients or replace one ingredient with another.
Anshul Dubey, research and development senior manager at PepsiCo, said 3D printing already is having an impact within the company, even though it is not yet being used to make food.
For example, consumer focus groups were shown 3D-printed plastic prototypes of different shaped and colored potato chips. He said using a prototype such as that, instead of just a picture, elicits a more accurate response from the focus group participants.
The US military is just beginning to research similar uses for 3D food printing, but it would be used on the battlefield instead of in the kitchen, said Mary Scerra, food technologist at the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Centre (NSRDEC) in Massachusetts.
She said that by 2025 or 2030, the military envisions using 3D printing to customise meals for soldiers that taste good, are nutrient-dense, and could be tailored to a soldier’s particular needs.
“Imagine warfighters in remote areas – one has muscle fatigue, one has been awake for a long period without rest, one lacks calories, one needs electrolytes, and one just wants a pizza,” Scerra said.
“Wouldn’t it be interesting if they could just print and eat?” Scerra said.
She noted that there are still several hurdles to overcome, such as the cost of bringing the technology to remote areas, the logistics of making it work in those locations and, perhaps most importantly, making sure the food tastes good.