3D printing for foodstuffs
3D printers have the potential to revolutionize the industry as we know it. Whether they make it or not depends not least on how efficient and precise we can make them.
3D printing in the food industry combines the areas of “high technology” and “great pleasure” in the most exciting way. Because the 3D printer serves one of the oldest rules of sophisticated cuisine: “You eat with your eyes first”. And thanks to modern 3D printers, the eyes get a lot to see.
Alongside the “classic” applications for manufacturing machine parts and baking moulds, for a number of years foods themselves have been printed. As long as 10 years ago, NASA began researching the use of 3D printers to produce food for astronauts. Here on the earth, the development of 3D printers for foodstuffs is still frowned upon as a gimmick. However, the advantages of printed food cannot simply be dismissed. The increasing number of people with allergies and intolerances make it sensible to prepare nourishment individually. The individual vitamin and mineral balance in the body can be corrected individually and automatically using nutritional supplements. Diets can be much better and more easily implemented with meals tailored to the current calorie needs. For old and ill people, nutrition can be tailored to medical needs.
All of these things can clearly be achieved without 3D printers – just as three quarters of a century ago meals could also be heated up without a microwave oven. At the time, the new technology was suspect for many people. The devices only made an appearance in the kitchen slowly. Whether the 3D printer will have a similar success history as the microwave oven depends on many factors. The development of the prices for the devices will certainly be decisive. Reducing costs for the new technology will lead to increasing value for industry. And it will ultimately provide the supply as soon as the demand increases.
3D printers have already made the first steps towards suitability for the masses. Not only small companies and start-ups, but also large companies such as the Italian pasta giant, Barilla, have long been researching the new technology. It will probably be a few years before the first mass-produced 3D printers are in our kitchens. But it is certain that the great potential of the new technology has developed a dynamic that will drive advances.
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