3D Printing is taking the world by a storm leaving no industry untouched, suffice to say that the food industry is one of them! A large majority of 3D food printers tend to be extrusion-type printers, which essentially means that they deposit layer upon layer of the raw material (food) through a nozzle. There is a newer category of binder printers which sticks materials together with some type of an “edible cement”; however, the latest cutting-edge technology is seemingly more complex. From nozzles to lasers to robotic arms constructing and replicating patterned chocolate and latticed pastry, 3D cake decorators are only becoming more and more common in the kitchens of bakeries and confectioneries, for obvious reasons. Saving time and foregoing to put in the hours of painstaking effort are not the only advantages of using these 3D Printed food machines. The ability to translate meticulous design and customization onto tangible, and more importantly, edible mediums, catapults this machine as the apex of food technology. The task of constructing intricate designs consisting of nutritional content was something that originally would take years of qualified education and experience but now only takes minutes, thanks to printers allowing consumers to do so based on biometric and genomic data. The advantages don’t just halt there. 3D Printed food making machines and decorators have now been able to produce shapes, textures and forms that were previously claimed to be too challenging to replicate single handedly. Bakers all around the globe have started venturing into the endless possibilities of 3D Printed food. The following is a list of 3D Printed food restaurants incorporating 3D Printing into their offerings:

  1. Dinara Kasko, a Pastry Chef from Ukraine, has indulged in 3D printer cake decorations. She makes complex designs by incorporating algorithms that make complex molds for cakes and pastries using a 3D cake printer.

    Courtesy: Dinara Kasko
  2. A restaurant in London, aptly named Food Ink has brought a new paradigm shift in food industry by promising to serve a nine-course meal from a 3D Printer. And that’s not all, even the restaurant’s tables, chairs, lamps and other accessories are 3D printed to create a unique and an unparalleled 3D Printing experience.
    Courtesy: 3ders.org
  3. A posh and classy restaurant in Santa Monica, by the name Melisse, has partnered with 3D Systems to develop a specific dish using 3D Printing. The Printer crafts different designs to the already existing classic dishes.  For example, the 3D Printer makes various designs for the crouton in the onion soup.
    Courtesy: 3dprinting.com
  4. The La Enoteca, a fancy restaurant in Barcelona, offers wide variety of foods using 3D Printer. One of the dishes that features 3D printing is the Sea Coral. To 3D Print food, the restaurant uses a Foodini 3D printer to design a flower-like pattern for the centerpiece. Since this design is complex to fabricate manually, 3D printing seems like a viable solution.
    Courtesy: BBC
  5. Biozoon Food Innovations is a German company which has taken a slightly different and a novel approach by tapping an altogether different application of 3D Printing. They are using the technology to create accessible meals for the elderly who struggle to process solid foods.
    “The company uses fresh chicken, carrots and other ingredients to create a nutritionally balanced array of purées that make up its seneoPro product line. With the help of an edible adhesive it prints the tasty mush into the shape of the base ingredient. The result is an ordinary meal that can easily be consumed by those who would otherwise struggle with chewing solid foods.” Source: all3dp.com
    Courtesy: Biozoon

However, 3D printing isn’t as flawless as one may perceive it to be. Due to it’s extensively complex technology, there are challenges and barriers one will face. Firstly, regulation: venues as diverse as restaurants to vending machines will have 3D printers, and therefore it is imperative for regulation agencies to categorize when and where this technology can or should be used, and what impact these regulations could have on the food production. Secondly, food safety: while food sustainability is not an issue, extruded foods are a concern due to the temperature fluctuations during the extrusion process. The heating/cooling processes can potentially be harmful for the food, making it susceptible to microbial growth and thus reducing its shelf life. And now, lastly, ingredient limitations: seeing the nascent stage of this technology, its safe to say that not every ingredient can be printed. Printing food requires a range of different ingredients, varying from processed foods like cheese to elemental ingredients like protein. Owing to the stark differences between temperatures, chemical compositions and storage requirements, it is impractical to place all ingredients in one container. The only solution as of now is to manually prepare them all. Despite some of the obvious limitations, there is no doubt that additive manufacturing technologies will only continue to evolve over time, and enhance the food industry in ways that are yet unforeseen.