Updated: Jun 12
As time progresses, constant new inventions and technological advancements arise, sometimes taking things two steps further than we expect. One example of a technological development that has the possibility of changing the world is 3D printed food. Three-dimensional printing began in the 1980s with the production of materials such as plastic, metal, and concrete. Even though 3D printed food is still at an early stage of development, there is no doubt that it will grow in popularity due to its customizability, efficiency, and environmental benefits.
Food printing involves the production of three-dimensional food based on a computer model. User-generated models help to build the 3D shapes and do so through the use of edible food inks and laser cooking. The lasers that are used in this process can work at wavelengths that are visible and ones that are not visible. The lasers prepare the food using radiation heat transfer, which is when “energetic particles or waves travel through a medium or space and transmit heat” (Blutinger, J.D., Cooper, C.C., Karthik, S. et al, 2023). The construction process of the food is facilitated by a mechanical system that delivers food pastes, powders, and liquids in a specific location, as outlined by the user-generated model.
One of the benefits of 3D printed food is that the nutrient content of the meal can be controlled. This means that meals can become healthier and more customizable. Additionally, the increased production of 3D printed food can decrease the spread of illnesses and diseases that are foodborne. Another benefit of 3D printed food is that shelf-life can be increased, since the heat, light and oxygen involved in 3D printing is controlled on a millimeter scale. Since 3D printing is controlled by a machine, it will not be subject to human error and can stay precise and accurate no matter how many times it carries out the printing process.
While 3D printed food contains many positive attributes, there are certainly some limitations and concerns surrounding this technological advancement. There are concerns that because printed food contains powders and pastes, they will lead to the deterioration of nutrients, which might cause heart disease, dementia, and respiratory problems. Another negative factor of 3D printed food is the cost. At such an early stage, the cost of a 3D printer would be very high, making them inaccessible . Most 3D food printers are present in fancy restaurants, rather than in a typical household.
While 3D printed food is definitely still in its infancy, it is evident that this technology can provide many benefits, from making food more personalized to lowering the spread of foodborne illnesses. Because of these, there is a large chance that 3D printing will continue to develop and a possibility that it could become the new norm in the coming years.
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Blutinger, J.D., Cooper, C.C., Karthik, S. et al. The future of software-controlled cooking. npj Sci Food 7, 6 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41538-023-00182-6
Carolo, Lucas. “3D Printed Food: All You Need to Know.” All3DP, 24 February 2023, https://all3dp.com/2/3d-printed-food-3d-printing-food/. Accessed 18 May 2023.
Uniyal, Mohit. “Radiation Heat Transfer - Definition, Formula, Properties, Rules.” BYJU'S Exam Prep, 29 September 2022, https://byjusexamprep.com/radiation-heat-transfer-i. Accessed 16 May 2023.
Wattles, Jackie. “Researchers 3D Printed This Cheesecake.” CNN, 21 Mar. 2023, www.cnn.com/2023/03/21/world/3d-printed-food-cheesecake-scn/index.html.