Process food with 3D printing

While synthesising meals on demand may seem like something out of a futuristic movie, 3D printing could soon become a regular way of processing food.

Tatjana Milenovic, Global Head of ABB’s Food and Beverage Segment, explains how 3D printing could change the way we manufacture food.

The ability to 3D-print food isn’t a huge intuitive leap. After all, we’ve already successfully created medical devices, machine tools and even entire homes using additive manufacturing technology.

In 2006, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) began researching 3D-printed food and developed the NASA Advanced Food Programme seven years later, with the mission of feeding astronauts for extended periods of time.

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Eriks meeting food safety regulations with Ultimaker S5 3D Printers

Award-winning desktop 3D printer provider Ultimaker has announced that ERIKS, an international industrial equipment supplier, has scaled up its 3D printing capabilities for OEM and MRO customers using Ultimaker 3D printers. 

Ultimaker S5 3D printers at ERIKS' facility. Photo via Ultimaker.

At its production facilities in Alkmaar, The Netherlands, ERIKS has installed multiple Ultimaker S5 Pro 3D printer bundles. Leveraging the systems, the company has provided its customers with support in identifying, designing and printing applications. With a focus on co-engineering, the company has been able to 3D print parts alongside its customers according to specific industry standards, especially in regards to food safety and cleanliness.

Such a process, Ultimaker claims, has made it easier for professionals working in MRO and OEM industries to adopt 3D printing technology. Jos Burger, CEO at Ultimaker, explains: “As shown in the 3D Printing Sentiment Index, only 35 percent of companies have adopted additive manufacturing, while in many industries worldwide margins are currently under high pressure. Efficiency is key to bring a competitive edge and 3D printing plays a major role in this, as ERIKS experienced first-hand with achieving their impressive cost-and time savings.”

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How will 3D printing impact the food industry?

The fifth Innovation Food Conference — iFood 2019 — will be held at Anuga in Cologne, Germany, in October. Suitable for food retailers, technologists and manufacturers, the conference aims to jointly work out approaches for the development of efficient value chains for sustainable and attractive products.

Speakers at the iFood conference will discuss the ecological, social and economic dimensions of sustainability, addressing issues such as ethics, animal welfare, resource efficiency, consumer health and food authenticity.

How will 3D printing impact the food industry?

Presentations about digitalisation will encompass many topics pertaining to the food industry. The conference will question what digitalisation offers to the food industry in terms of transparency and traceability, and the role of artificial intelligence within the food industry. Experts will provide insights into the economic impacts and opportunities of digitalisation, alongside discussing topics such as blockchain.

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A glimpse of 3D

3D printing of food is turning from pipe dream into commercial reality, as nutrition supplements firm Nourish3d is about to prove.

Nourishe3d founder Melissa Snover shares her dream for personalised nutrition using 3D printing

While the idea of 3D printed food might still seem in the realms of a sci-fi novel, the technology s very much present and already being deployed by, in particular, baking industry professionals for cake or pastry decoration.

At present, the technology is limited and relatively expensive, with the lowest cost of a 3D printer being around $1,000 (£784). Using extrusion, current 3D printers can only handle paste or puree ingredients, such as chocolate, cream or batter. However, the technology is beginning to gain traction, with users understanding how it can help to meet changing demands from consumers.

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How could 3D printing shape food innovation?

3D printing could prove a transformative technology for the food industry, from meal customisation to aiding with dietary requirements. Deborah Williams explores the current state of the technology and what it could mean for the market.

In an era where food tastes are gearing towards customisation, 3D food printing, the process of preparing a meal or food item by means of an automated additive method, has been touted as a technology that may be able to participate in providing solutions.

The Magic Candy Factorys 3D printing machine

And, at a time when consumers’ dietary requirements are increasing (and varied), 3D food printing, its proponents suggest, also carries benefits for those, say, with food allergies by allowing meals to be specifically designed not only to the recipient’s flavour, style and taste preferences but also to their health conditions.

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3D food printing may provide way to feed the world

The 3D food printing market is projected to reach $525.6 million by 2023 according to Research and Markets. Now that is far from the billion-dollar opportunities for the larger food technology sector that I wrote about yesterday: Global Food Tech Industry Expected To Reach $250 Billion By 2022. However, it is still a healthy market segment given the relatively recent introduction of people and companies modifying 3D printers to print with food materials.

I am on a bit of a food tech path this month, but I had to write about 3D food printing given all of my work in the industry. As most readers here know, I frequently have 3D printers come through my workshop on loan for testing and evaluation work and I report on that here when possible. While I have not tested any food grade 3D printers yet, I have the newest Ultimaker S5ready to unbox and am in talks to take a deep dive on the latest cool FabPro 1000 SLA 3D printer from 3D Systems. However, I do not think they would be happy if I tried any modifications with spinach or chocolate or any food, for that matter.

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Additive Manufacturing & The Chocolate Factory

The advent of 3D printing has had some surprising applications, particularly in the food industry.


The adoption of 3D printing in the manufacturing sector is growing, but as with any production technology, the key to proliferation lies in finding the right niche.

Maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services offer a promising entry point for job shops and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to use additive manufacturing for more than just prototyping. The Chocolate Factory, based in Rotterdam, recently learned this firsthand.

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3D food printing: Precision and accuracy an obstacle to fulfilling potential

Printing precision and accuracy, process productivity and the production of colourful, multi-flavour, multi-structure products remain the biggest challenges to wider industry adoption of 3D food printing.

Findings from a review of this emerging technology point towards a lack of focus on how to achieve accurate an precise printing in order to construct delicate and complex edible structures.

©iStock/viewme

Although 3D printing has uses in areas such as military and spave food, ederly food, confectionary and chewing gum, the research team believe more is to come once these challenges are overcome.

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3D Food Printing: Testing the boundaries of cooking

For those of us who grew up in the late twentieth century, the future of food constituted a boundless frontier for our imagination. Would we just feed on pills containing all the nutrients we need? Will we be able to construct food out of thin air, assembling atoms floating in the environment like in The Jetsons? Would small, dehydrated lumps turn into full on roast chicken meals, like in Luc Besson’s 1997 film The Fifth Element? Or would we be rather forced to consume deceased humans in the forms of protein bars, like in the dystopian nightmare represented in Richard Fleischer’s 1973 Soylent Green?

The present at times reflects those early inspirations, at times totally diverges. While we do have access to a product called Soylent, supposed to provide you with all the nutrition you need without worrying about cooking or, actually, even chewing, the pills for space travelers never materialized. In fact, astronauts seem to appreciate food that reminds them of their lives on Earth, with all its emotional and symbolic meanings.

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Farmers reap rewards from 3D printing

Sample of mechanical parts made using 3D printing technology sit in display as an employee works on a design at a printing factory in Yangon. Photos: AFPWhizzing across a blue-lit platform with a whirr and a squeak, liquid plastic pours from its chrome tip. The 3D printer seems a far cry from the muddy fields surrounding Yangon.

But in an industrial park south of the city 3D printing technology is now being used to design bespoke parts that are changing the lives of struggling farmers, who often rely on making their own tools or adapting imports in place of agriculture machinery.

But poor equipment is only one challenge amid natural disasters and razor-thin profit-margins for Myanmar’s farmers. Agriculture accounts for nearly half of Myanmar’s economic output, but it is among the smallest export markets in Asia.

But change is afoot at social enterprise Proximity Designs, where 3D printers are being used to design specially adapted farming tools, in consultation with the farmers who will use them.

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