The use of 3D printers for everything from building houses to model roller coasters has grown over the years. But what about 3D-printed food?
Two UF/IFAS professors in the department of agricultural and biological engineering, Adam Watson and Ziynet Boz, have been re-evaluating the potential of 3D printers, particularly their capacity to print food.
In their lab, one of these 3D printers is available for use. The device beeps and the touchscreen fills with a variety of designs when a fingertip is touched.
The mechanical arm makes a high-pitched whirr after choosing a design before starting its meticulous work of carefully layering, first with the base.
Then, until the design is finished, a viscous food substance, such as mashed potatoes, is squirted out of cylinders of varying nozzle sizes.
For those looking to improve their plating abilities,
an unrivalled level of control is possible with embedded stock designs and the option to upload your own.
Medical benefits of 3D-printed food
However, its upsides might go beyond food presentation experiments in the name of creativity.
For example, the device might be helpful for people who have dysphagia, or trouble swallowing.
People who struggle with dysphagia frequently rely on moist, soft foods like yoghurt or mashed fruits and vegetables. These amorphous foods can be unpleasant, though.
Shape and aesthetic appeal can be restored with a 3D food printer.
For instance, a pureed carrot can be reshaped to resemble a standard carrot.
Moreover, 3D food printers might be used for humanitarian reasons,
such as in times of famine or war.
With the addition of water,
dehydrated foods can be returned to their original state and 3D printed into designs that enhance the flavour and appeal of the snack or meal.
However, there are additional advantages.
People can also choose what ingredients go into the food they eat thanks to 3D food printers.
According to Boz, it might be a great way for parents to guarantee that their kids are consuming the right kinds of fruits and vegetables. Parents can make their own products rather than having to purchase ones that contain hidden fruits and vegetables.
Everything 3d printed can be re-used
People have more control over their food waste thanks to a 3D food printer.
Tableware can also be decorated with images of leftover food.
Similar to bread bowls, mashed potatoes can be formed into cups, cooked, and then used to serve food.
Having edible tableware eliminates the need to wash dishes, which uses less water and reduces water waste, according to Watson.
Food technology has advanced significantly since the invention of the machine, but there is still room for improvement.
One such improvement would be the ability to cook the food while or after printing it to reduce the time required for food preparation.
Another is simply bringing 3D food printers up to par with other common and useful kitchen appliances in terms of affordability and availability.