Among its many other uses, 3D printing is poised to redefine the ways we think of food preparation. The possibilities inherent in 3D printing have the potential to revolutionize food production enhancing creative design, customizing nutritional content, and increasing food sustainability. This technology is already being used by high-end chefs for revolutionary culinary creations, but there are still some technical and market barriers to be overcome in the years ahead.
The Benefits of 3D Printed Food
The 3D printing technology has numerous advantages and it has great potential in food preparation. Given the precision of creating foods with a computer and a 3D printer, once a design is perfected and exists as a file in the system, your favorite dish can be reproduced exactly as you like it a virtually infinite number of times. This is something you can’t rely on from a human chef.
Profitability in commercial kitchens traditionally comes from lower-quality processed food to offset the fact that even a skilled chef will always waste ingredients. Using a 3D printer to prepare food will not only mean a minimal waste of ingredients but greater cleanliness in food preparation with the vastly more efficient process. The dish can not only taste the same but be visually identical every time.
This is why chefs are drawn to 3D food printers. It allows them to maintain quality and minimize waste at many levels while saving effort. Though not found in your typical home kitchen, 3D food printers such as Natural Machine’s Foodini have made an impact with fine dining as Michelin-starred chefs use the technology to take their signature dishes to the next level. From simple breadsticks to ravioli, any food that requires shaping or layering can be enhanced with 3D printer technology. The precision of the printer also makes possible a level of consistency and accuracy you could never maintain yourself.
The Future of Food Preparation?
There are already restaurants such as Food Ink in London, which serve 3D printed food. However, the technology for 3D food printing is still in its early stages and, so far, the public remains skeptical. There are still some obstacles to marketing these machines to consumers. One drawback is the materials used – the technology is extrusion-based and thus limited to foods that can be applied as a paste. This may be ideal for chocolate or dough, but staples such as meats and vegetables can only be produced at an unnatural texture – a problem that still needs to be resolved.
But extruded foods can be augmented with nutritious or flavorful additives that will provide other benefits to modern diners while allowing them the freedom to be creative in meal and food planning. The Foodini can even be programmed to create 3D foods at specified calorie requirements so that dishes can be portioned to your current dietary plan. It will eventually be possible to create mixtures for specific requirements, an advantage for sufferers from conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
Natural Machines is diligently rolling out the Foodini with expectations that it can become the next must-own kitchen appliance. For now, the focus is in high-end commercial kitchens where it can provide consistent quality. You can imagine multiple Foodinis running in the background to create custom desserts while the staff focuses on cleanliness and customer service.
In the near future, food preparation could become a matter of computer designs transmitted to a kitchen printer. A 3D printer for creating a wide variety of foods will become as common as microwave ovens are today.
The advantages to 3D printing are transforming many industries, and the technology seems about to change food preparation forever. The efficiency, consistency, and creative possibilities are already making 3D food printers a favorite with professional chefs. There are obstacles to be overcome. We haven’t quite gotten to the point where you can produce gourmet meals from a smartphone app on the drive home, but revolutionary products like Foodini are bringing that closer to reality.
Guest article written by: Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in the business world. She spends her free time trying out new recipes or reading Scandinavian crime novels. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.