3-D Food

Here’s how close we are to real 3-D-printed food

US company, 3D Systems has unveiled its new line of ChefJet 3D sugar printers – just as the name implies, the ChefJet will allow any professional kitchen to incorporate “stunning edible prints” with minimal effort – that is, for foodies willing to fork out some serious dough.

ChefJet will be available later this year in two models: one at “under $5 000” to deliver single-colour edible prints, and another “Pro” version for “under $10,000” to enable larger, full-colour designs.

“We invite leading pastry chefs, restaurateurs, and event planners to join us in bringing 3D printing into the kitchen,” says Liz von Hasseln, 3D Systems’ creative director of food products – and yes, that’s her official title.

If Liz von Hasseln’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she and her husband, Kyle, co-founded The Sugar Lab, a California-based start-up 3D Systems acquired in September.

Naturally, it makes sense that 3D Systems would kick things off by translating The Sugar Lab’s processes to its own branded line of printers.

To be sure, the ability to choose from various flavours and colours is certainly a slick enhancement. But while printing geometrically pleasing sugar confections is a neat trick, it’s also a very specific, expensive solution – and a far cry from the broad-based vision most people have when hear the phrase “3-D-printed food”.

When, for instance, will we be able to walk up to a 3-D printer and order a hamburger? Or a slice of pizza? Or some pasta?

Well technically, you already can. Sort of.
Take Barcelona-based Natural Machines, for example, whose Foodini printer is pegged for a late-2014 commercial launch and can layer fresh, unprocessed ingredients to prepare various foods in raw form, such as pizza, filled ravioli, cookies, crackers, and hamburger patties.
Then again, the roughly $1 400 Foodini won’t cook the meals for you, and it still requires you get your hands dirty cutting, measuring, and mixing the ingredients before it can spit them out in order. As a result, and aside from partially solving the complication of properly shaping and layering food, it’s hard to imagine that the Foodini will be adopted on any wide scale.

Rather, more pertinent to the popular vision of 3-D-printed food is something in the works from both NASA and a small, Austin, Texas-based company named Systems and Materials Research Consultancy.

Last May, NASA awarded a six-month, $125 000 Small Business Innovation Research grant to SMRC to explore the feasibility of using 3-D-printed food for long-duration space missions…..

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