By Daniela Wiegmann
New 3D food printers convert marzipan goo into shapely eatables
Cookie cutters are so yesterday. Tomorrow's biscuits will have 3D forms. A German start-up company has figured out a way to shape food with a 3D printer, and has developed printable food mixtures for a variety of printing processes.
Focusing on natural foods and funded to the tune of 40,000 euros (Bt1.6 million) by the crowd funding platform Kickstarter, Print2Taste's machine, the Bocusini, is the world's first plug & play 3D food printer and will cost in the region of 900 euros.
The machine, which applies the mix from a tiny nozzle, is due to arrive on the market in 2016.
Working much like a familiar inkjet printer, it squirts a little food on the platen and keeps doing it, depositing layers to build up an object according to a user's uploaded design, explains nutritional scientist Melanie Senger from Print2Taste.
Chocolate, marzipan and fudge are natural materials for the process. Fine-ground liver paste and a batter to make chocolate-flavour cookies is on offer too.
Its makers believe that its 3D printers not only have a great future in the creation of fancy confectionery, but could have a variety of practical applications.
One area of research is the potential use of 3D food printers to help nursing home residents who have trouble chewing and swallowing food. These elderly people often get served their meals in unappealing pureed form, leading to loss of appetite and malnutrition.
3D printers could make more appetising food with personalised nutritional content. Researchers are already working on the development of an entire menu made with a 3D printer.
Nutrition researchers believe that printed food will become part of everyday life within a few years, with customers able to choose their own custom-made meals from a digital menu.
German Bakery Federation president Peter Becker sees the technology as an opportunity for the development of a whole new craft industry in his sector.
One of the limitations of the confectionery industry is that it is difficult to economically produce anything unless a company is willing to make it on an industrial scale. Using the new production method of 3D printing means customers can personalise their orders.
“The trend towards personalised products has certainly been observed in our area of business,” he says.
Wedding cakes with a photo of the happy couple made out of marzipan are already a regular feature of a confectioner's business, but soon people will be able to have their cake crowned with miniature replicas of themselves.
“The 3D food printer is on its way, there’s no doubt about it,” says Becker.