Whether you're an excellent chef or a hazard in the kitchen, there's one thing we all have in common: Food. We need it to survive, and enjoying a delicious meal is a universal source of joy. But, as food science and technology progress, we are given new opportunities to explore when it comes to our culinary desires. One example? 3D printed foods.
Although it may not sound appetizing at first mention, 3D printing is gaining popularity in the culinary industry. From your favorite pasta dish to recreating awe-inspiring cakes (including their designs), 3D printed foods aren't too far from becoming a tasty and convenient mainstream reality.
3D Printed Food: How it Works
3D printer technology is expanding into many different categories. Originally, the 3D printer technology was based on the recreation of solid objects, such as cups and bowls. Now, the technology is advanced enough to print new organs for patients, prosthetic limbs, and food safe for human consumption.
A traditional 3D printer works by assembling plastics, metals, and other raw materials using robotics and computer programming. The convenience and automation is what led scientists to expand their research into different areas of 3D printing, starting with food.
It's the precision of the 3D printer that draws attention from all industries, including the culinary ones. As of right now, bakeries are using 3D printers to create detailed and precise frosting designs, sugar latticing, and extravagant chocolate molds. The latest generation of the food 3D printer collection includes new nozzle designs, lasers, and robotic arms to assemble show-stopping desserts and confectionery treats.
3D printed foods guarantee consistent, error-free designs for line cooks and bakers
Not only do these 3D printers perform consistently and efficiently, but they also save a ton of time and energy for human workers. Rather than requiring years of practice to perfect the art of cake decorating, bakeries can take advantage of a 3D printer to quickly print out whatever design is needed. Whether it's a custom floral arrangement for a wedding cake or an intricate lattice design, the 3D printer can be used in place of human hands for an error-free aesthetic.
The same concept goes for restaurants where line cooking is a priority. With line cooking, almost every dish is made to be assembled in a distinct and identical way. There is a certain way that each dish should look when served, which makes the process itself somewhat autonomous. Because of this, the 3D printer makes for an excellent substitute in place of multiple line cooks.
As of now, some chefs are already taking advantage of 3D printers in their kitchens. Paco Pérez, the Executive Chef of 2 Michelin star restaurants in Spain, is already familiar with 3D printers in the culinary scene. According to Pérez, the 3D printer allows for line cooks to dedicate their time and energy to other tasks in the kitchen, and does an excellent job of recreating the same dishes with consistency and speed. His machine of choice? The Foodini, by Natural Machines.
What Autonomous Cooking Means for the Future
When it comes to eating, people are wary of the unnatural. It may seem almost ironic, considering that the majority of the foods we buy and eat are laced with chemicals and preservatives anyways. But, at the mention of a lab setting or technology-produced foods, people turn away. However, as technology and food science progress, the reality is that we will start moving towards a more automated future, which may be better for our health and the environment.
Currently, 3D printed foods are being used in nursing homes to help patients suffering from chewing and swallowing difficulties. Typically, these patients receive a pureed menu that isn't exactly appetizing, but new alternatives are now available, thanks to the 3D printer. Foods can be printed out with a gelling agent and softer molds so that the food looks virtually the same, but is edible for those patients.
3D printed foods can serve as softer food alternatives for patients with eating difficulties
Another positive aspect of 3D printed foods is its sustainability potential. By 2050, it is estimated that the global population will reach 9.6 billion people. To maintain current food levels, the planet's supply may have to increase by as much as 50%. But with climate change and such a steep demand in a small window of time, our current way of doing things won't be able to cut it.
That's where the 3D printer comes in. If used for sustainability purposes, 3D printers could replace the base ingredients of many different dishes with more sustainable ingredients such as duckweed, algae, and grass. Plus, the printers are loaded with cartridges, meaning that the ingredients would be preserved within a small container to print later, which could (in theory) reduce food waste and eliminate the shelf life factor of in grocery stores.
It may sound like a far-fetched concept, but we are slowly moving towards it. Sustainability concerns, a growing population, and our ever-evolving technological advancements are turning out to be the perfect ingredients in the recipe for a 3D culinary experience.
At first, there is bound to be some backlash over the whole idea. Concerns over its nutritional value, effects on the body over time, and so on are still categorized under the unknown. But, opinions change, and so do the times. Just look at the invention of the microwave a few decades ago. People considered that to be a dangerous, foreign idea, and now almost every household has at least one. As the future moves forward, so will we; Often in ways we may have never even expected.