3D printing food helps personalise nutrition
Technology has been making huge leaps forward in terms of advancing our home appliances, but 3D printing is not something we expected to be entering our kitchens. Researchers from South Korea’s Ewha Womans University have been developing a way to customise foods to meet individual nutritional requirements using 3D printing.
It’s difficult to comprehend how this concept could become a reality, but it turns out 3D printing of food is very similar to 3D printing of other materials — raw materials are deposited in specific places to create layers that ultimately build up to create the final product.
The researchers explained the three-step process in this diagram:
“We built a platform that uses 3D printing to create food microstructures that allow food texture and body absorption to be customised on a personal level,” said Associate Professor Jin-Kyu Rhee. “We think that one day, people could have cartridges that contain powdered versions of various ingredients that would be put together using 3D printing and cooked according to the user’s needs or preferences.”
The researchers used the prototype 3D printer to replicate the physical properties and texture of actual food samples. The platform also has the ability to turn carbohydrate and protein powers into food with microstructures that can be tuned to control food texture and how the food is absorbed by the body.
Creating tailored, cooked and nutritional meals is not the only benefit arising from the development of 3D food printing. The ability to print food both at home and on an industrial scale may also help minimise food waste and meet the demands of the increasing global population. With some countries wasting a significant amount of food while others struggle with food insecurity, on-demand production would reduce the costs involved with storage and transportation, and help deliver these foods where they are most needed.
Rhee and his team recognise the future potential of 3D printing food and plan to continue researching.
“We are only in early stages, but we believe our research will move 3D food printing to the next level,” said Rhee. "We are continuing to optimise our 3D print technology to create customised food materials and products that exhibit longer storage times and enhanced functionality in terms of body absorption.”
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