Is it cooking with 3D printed shapeshifting pasta noodles, pizza on the International Space Station or perhaps the new “Breakfast Extensions” for the Form 2 3D printer? Nothing can really top the homemade cooking out there but there are some that believe that 3D food printers might simplify the way we cook and improve our nutritional aspects when it comes to eating food. Now a 3D printed restaurant may have been something back in the day but there's nothing quite like 3D printing food best served right off the printer.
Shapeshifting is not a word you ever want to hear when it comes to any kind of food. It sounds like some kind of alien horror movie plot twist that you wouldn't want to be a part of but MIT has come a long way in create their shapeshifting 4D pasta that isn't from some kind of alien horror movie. These shape-shifting noodles react and fold when exposed to water and can be used to create countless intricate noodle designs.
MIT researchers Wang and Yao were actually working with bacterium that respond to humidity when they started playing around with edible materials that would have a similar effect. The noodles are made of thin layers of gelatin with different densities. As the dense top layer absorbs water, it bends over the less-dense bottom layer creating a simple piece of tube-shaped pasta. By 3D-printing strips of cellulose starch over the top layer, the research team was able to control the final shape of the noodles and create everything from traditional rigatoni to avant-garde mushrooms and blossoming flowers.
“We did some simple calculations, such as for macaroni pasta, and even if you pack it perfectly, you still will end up with 67 percent of the volume as air,” said Wen Wang, a former graduate student and research scientist in MIT’s Media Lab. “We thought maybe in the future our shape-changing food could be packed flat and save space.”
This isn't the first time we have heard of 3D printing pasta though. Back in 2013, Italian pasta giant Barilla planned to equip their restaurants worldwide with 3D pasta printers that can churn out incredibly fresh noodles in any shape imaginable. While Barilla is more about the speed of 3D food printers and of reaching their goal of 3D printing 15 to 20 pieces of pasta in about 2 minutes. MIT researchers are more set minded on the shape, design and package efficiency with this brand new aspect of 3D printing food itself and hopes that one day they can commercializing their research.
April Fool's Joke
It may have been an April Fool's prank and a really good one at that but that hasn't stopped some people from continuing to make 3D printable breakfast food a reality. PancakeBot and Foodini 3D food printers are a few of the 3D printers out there that are pioneering 3D printing breakfast foods.
A fun addition to the novelty 3D printed food design category is the PancakeBot, an acrylic body machine that uses stepper motors and two belt drives to control the batter-head’s position, enabling it to extrude pancake batter in impressively complex designs, from the Eiffel Tower to a portrait of President Obama. Since it fits right onto an electric griddle, you can go from design to cooked pancake very quickly, and take your Sunday brunches to the next level.
The Foodini 3D food printer on the other hand is an actual 3D printer that can produce a ton of different breakfast items from gluten free cereal to bread to toast with jelly to "breakfast" pizza and more. Foodini, by Natural Machines, is one of the most exciting 3D printers that is capable of printing a wide range of real, fresh, and nutritious foods in either savory or sweet. Though it can’t actually cook the food, the Foodini’s main purpose is “to take on the difficult and/or time-consuming parts of food preparation, that often discourage people from creating homemade food.” That shouldn't stop you from getting your own 3D printed gluten free cereal that you can have early in the morning with your cup of coffee.
Out of This World Pizza!
Now that 3D-printing technology has become more vital and relevant than ever, Silicon Valley startup BeeHex has harnessed this technology to 3D print pizza. Yes, that edible, cheesy, delicious pizza can now be 3D printed by a per-programmed robot. Funded by a grant from NASA, the purpose of this invention was to create a way for astronauts to select and produce delicious food for themselves on missions. As manned missions to Mars become an ever-increasing possibility, astronauts might be spending much more time in space. To save space-goers from the drudgery of choking down freeze-dried, pre-packaged “space food” day after day, month after month, NASA decided it was time to develop a way to cook in space.
One of NASA’s priorities is to bring aspects of life on Earth into deep space, where astronauts are otherwise left suspended in a cold and unfamiliar environment. For NASA, the psychological benefits of its astronauts feeling at home is well-worth the investment. BeeHex may first appear at venues near you but, up in space, the technology will offer astronauts the memorable tastes of home – that sure beats conventional space food. Not to mention that Beehex has brought us one step closer to bring the Star Trek replicator to reality.