3D food printing – The future of food

Most 3D printers work by slowly depositing layers of material, one on top of the other, until an object is constructed. The process is called “additive manufacturing,” and it uses deposition printers. Others bind layers together with adhesive — they’re called binding printers.  

We live in an era where food is not only grown or bred anymore, but manufactured in a laboratory setting or build with a 3D printer. These technologies influence supply chains, eating habits, preparation methods and introduce entirely new food products to the market. Edible growth is an example of a future food product that forms a bridge between new technologies and authentic practices of growing and breeding food.  

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Image Credit: CHLOÉ RUTZERVELD / Bart van Overbeeke

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                                3D printed sugar cake topper (Image credit: 3D Systems)  

Multiple layers containing seeds, spores and yeast are printed according to a personalized 3D file. Within five days the plants and fungi mature and the yeast ferments the solid inside into a liquid. The product’s intensifying structure; scent and taste are reflected in its changing appearance. Depending on the preferred intensity, the consumer decides when to harvest and enjoy the delicious, fresh and nutrient-rich edible.

3D printing with Food? 

Before we can actually speak of 3D printed food, a lot of research and development needs to be done. Because at this point, companies only succeeded in printing sugar sculptures, chocolate and other unhealthy sweets, transforming product A in product A with a different shape. The products that are made cannot be called ‘food’ and other than the aesthetics aspects, they have no additional value or necessities to be printed.  

The aim was to use this new food technology in a useful way to create natural, healthy, sustainable and nutrient rich food that cannot be made with traditional production methods and contributes to our and the environments wellbeing. With Edible Growth a lot of unnecessary stages of the food chain disappear with as result a reduction of food waste, food miles and Co2 emission. 

At the same time the consumer will become more involved and conscious about the food they eat. Detailed information about the environmental benefits of Edible Growth.  

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Image Credit: Natural Machines –Printing of the Mini-Burgers  

Edible Growth is at this point still a future food concept which cannot be printed yet. In order to make it more research and experiments related to the software, hardware and ingredient composition are necessary.  

3D food printers are more difficult to explain. Hod Lipson, director of Cornell University’s Creative Machines Lab, laid out the three dominant methods of printing food at the 2015 Inside 3D Printing conference in New York City, which are nozzles, powdery material, and lasers.  

Other chefs are looking beyond the kitchen. Dutch food designer Chloé Rutzerveld documented the creation of cracker-like yeast structures containing seeds and
spores that sprout over time, and thinks the snack he synthesized and those like it — natural, transportable products printed efficiently — could someday
transform the food industry. And he’s not alone.    

3D food printers may not produce great-tasting food right now, or be able to cook meals from scratch. Or have the wholehearted endorsement of the epicurean
elite. But they’re getting better every year, and what they promise — sustainable, nutritional perfection — is worth the pursuit.


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