Amazing as it may sound, 3D printing is being taken to a whole new level by using this technology to print food! A $125,000 grant has been allotted to Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC) to make a fully functional food 3D printer for extended space expeditions. NASA is fully backing this venture. The food used for such voyages at the moment lacks longevity; taking the idea from here, Arjun Contractor and his team at SMRC aim at developing 3D printers that will use oils and powders to develop layers of meals in a way that is analogous to FDM 3D printers. They aim to increase the shelf life of food to over 15 years to feed NASA’s space explorers, all by manufacturing such a 3D printer.
Contractor said, “I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently… So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.” So it is clear, it is not just a matter of providing food security to the astronauts but world food needs can also be catered to if such a development is completed!
Rendering Contractor’s plan, a simple cartridge will be required to make the food and once a cartridge is used, the consumer can simply come back to the store where it can be refilled with any ingredient, powder and oils etc. This will also finish the problem of food waste. General public can benefit from such customized 3D printers that can give, “customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time”, to them. New cooking techniques are prone to be devised using food 3D printers, adding new textures and flavours. The best food suited for a 3D printed cuisine is Pizza as per Contractor, mainly due to its distinct layers of pita base, veggies, chicken and cheese, etc. He said , “because it can be printed in distinct layers, so it only requires the print head to extrude one substance at a time.”