Ink seems so retro now that machines can custom-print myriad 3-D objects, including snacks. Here are some of the most impressive edibles to emerge from 3-D printers so far.
Cornell University’s Creative Machines Lab is at the forefront of 3-D printed food. The lab’s Fab@Home project led by PhD candidate Jeffrey Ian Lipton uses solid freeform fabrication to print interesting snacks. Lab researchers worked with the French Culinary Institute to print this space shuttle from cheese.
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Printing with chocolate is a no-brainer given its consistency but what used to be a novelty has started going mainstream. Chocolate companies are using 3-D printing tech in new ways, like this tractor printed for Nestlé and Android KitKat’s Chocnology exhibition.
Using food like ink can be much trickier than generating a mold from 3-D tech. Several years ago Windell Oskay and his team at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories custom-built a 3-D fabricator that fused sugar together into sculptures. More recently 3D Systems released the ChefJet printer to produce confections and cake-toppers.
One day the pizza question could be, Fresh, frozen or printed? The Barcelona-based startup Natural Machines printed fresh pizzas using a 3-D machine prototype called Foodini in 2013. At the same time, NASA gave a grant to the Systems and Materials Research Corporation in Austin to develop pizza-printing capabilities for space.
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The crew at Cornell University’s Creative Machines Lab did print thick cookies containing the letter C but German designer Ralf Holleis (opens in new tab) produced fewer crumbs. He collaborated with a professor at the University of Applied Sciences Coburg to print holiday cookies from red and green colored dough.
Printed meat doesn’t sound all that appetizing but that hasn’t stopped anyone from trying. The startup Modern Meadow is working on developing humane, bioprinted meat while Natural Machines used their Foodini to create real swirled hamburgers -- as well as the buns and cheese to go on top.
These chips might look like ramen noodles but researchers at the Cornell Creative Machines Lab printed them from corn dough. The flower shape allowed for even frying, Fast Company reported. If you want pasta, Natural Machines says its Foodini printer can serve up gnocchi and ravioli.
The Dutch consultancy TNO Research envisions using 3-D printing to address world hunger, although some might squirm at their proposals. Their food printer can generate nutrient-rich snacks from alternative ingredients like algae and even mealworms.
If telling kids to eat broccoli because it’s “little trees” doesn’t work, perhaps Natural Machines’ 3-D printed spinach quiche will. To tempt picky young eaters, the Spanish startup produced vegetable snacks in the shape of butterflies and dinosaurs using their Foodini printer.