How 3D Printing Will Change How We Eat

“Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art”
Marcel Boulestin
Leeloominaï Lekatariba Lamina-Tchaï Ekbat De Sebat (A.K.A "Leeloo") 

The Fifth Element is one of my all-time favourite science fiction movies. What always captured my imagination was its presentation of the technology of the future. One scene in particular stands out; where a “microwave” generates an entire roast chicken from nothing. 

Empty bowl.

Whole roast chicken.

3D printing embodies the concept of ground-up manufacturing. Starting with nothing, ending with a final, physical product. The 3D printing of food is bringing the science fiction food “replicator” into reality. Whilst not quite instantaneous, 3D printed edibles and 3D food printers are becoming more common. This blog will look at some of these printers and talk about the direction of growth in this niche industry. 

The Foodini

The Foodini is a 3D food printer, marketed as a “new generation kitchen appliance that combines technology, food, art and design”. The machine functions through the use of removable and reusable capsules, in which are filled, by the end user, with fresh ingredients.

The core drive of the machine is the automation of the cooking process. To simplify traditionally complex methods (such as the creation of homemade ravioli) and automate the process, whilst promoting the use of fresh and healthy ingredients.

The Bocusini

The Bocusini is an open source food 3D printed designed to utilise pre-packaged food capsules, in order to create artist food treats, in both sweet and savoury varieties. Pre-packaged foodstuffs include Marzipan, potato puree and jelly, with future options including liver pate and caramel.

The system is designed as a plug and play system, presenting a creative tool for chefs, confectioners and individuals. Utilising online design banks (in a similar vein to Makerbot’s Thingiverse), food designs can be downloaded and printed to create custom treats.  

The ChefJet Pro

The drive of the ChefJet Pro is as a tool for culinary artists to create aesthetically pleasing and delicious food decorations. Designed to work with sugar, chocolate and candy, the product is envisioned as a way to create decorative food designs traditionally impossible. 

The focus here is sweets, transforming sugar into a manufacturing, architectural and artistic medium.

Looking at these products, we can see the 3D printing of food is a growing trend. The question remains; will 3D printing of food become the culinary style of the future?

Honestly. Probably not. 

It’s artistic. It’s fun. But in the end, it doesn’t have the versatility, the adaptability, of traditional cooking. As Marcel Boulestin stated, “cookery is not chemistry. It is an art”. Cooking is not about exact measures (although some may argue this point), whereas 3D printing is. Notions of cross-contamination and food safety further complicate the mainstream adaptation of edible 3D printing. 

3D printing is versatile enough to manufacture food, and devices like the ChefJet show how 3D printing can revolutionise the artistic side of food. However, this is only one side of culinary development. And one which does not necessarily relate to the everyday end user.

In the end, I don’t know 3D printing can bring us the food “replicator” of science fiction. Only time will tell.