Creating a splash: 3D printing of milk-based products
From pizzas and chocolate to purees for the elderly, the potential applications for 3D printing in the food and beverage industry are growing. In order for these products to gain further acceptance and wider applications, they must also be tasty and nutritious.
Researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) have now developed a method to perform direct ink writing (DIW) 3D printing of milk-based products at room temperature, while maintaining their temperature-sensitive nutrients. Their study has been published in the journal RSC Advances.
3D printing of food has been achieved by different printing methods, including the widely used selective laser sintering (SLS) and hot-melt extrusion methods. However these methods are not always compatible with temperature-sensitive nutrients found in certain types of food. For instance, milk is rich in both calcium and protein, but these nutrients are temperature sensitive and so milk is unsuitable for 3D printing using the aforementioned printing methods, which require high temperature. While cold extrusion is a viable alternative, it often requires rheology modifiers or additives to stabilse printed structures. Optimising these additives is a complex and judicious task.
To tackle these limitations, the research team from SUTD’s Soft Fluidics Lab changed the rheological properties of the printing ink and demonstrated DIW 3D printing of milk by cold extrusion with a single milk product — powdered milk. The team found that the concentration of milk powder allowed for the simple formulation of 3D-printable milk inks using water to control the rheology. Extensive characterisations of the formulated milk ink were also conducted to analyse the rheological properties and ensure optimal printability.
“This novel yet simple method can be used in formulating various nutritious foods, including those served to patients in hospitals for their special dietary needs,” said SUTD PhD candidate, Lee Cheng Pau, lead author of the study.
“Cold extrusion does not compromise heat-sensitive nutrients and yet offers vast potential in 3D printing of aesthetically pleasing, nutritionally controlled foods customised for individual requirements,” added Assistant Professor Michinao Hashimoto, principal investigator of the study.
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