Share it! Science : 3-d Food Printers??!!

Monday, September 29, 2014

3-d Food Printers??!!

     Everyone is interested in gadgets that save time, but this new technology almost sounds like something out of the Jetsons. Most of you are probably familiar with the idea of a 3-d printer. They are used to "print", or make, items out of plastic. 3-d printing has many practical applications from building patient specific implants for medical use to creating coral shaped pieces to entice coral polyps to recolonize damaged reefs. 3-d food printing uses the same basic technology, an additive process that in this case builds something edible. Two types of 3-d food printers will be introduced at the Maker Faire in Rome October 3-5th this year. Foodini is a food printer that aims to be the next home kitchen revolution, changing how we prepare food just as the microwave did way back when. Foodini speeds up some of the prep work in making a fresh, nutritious dish. For example it can build a pizza crust, or print out ravioli. It can also make cookies and intricate chocolates. The one caveat, and I believe for most this will be a big caveat, is that any food that the Foodini processes must start out in a paste or liquid form so that it can pass through the machinery. Meaning you would have to take the time to process your meal into paste before you can print anything out. The Foodini doesn't cook food, so that is an additional step. Unfortunately, I think it is a cool idea that might add up to being an expensive appliance, and in the long run is only saving a bit of time. I do believe it has many practical applications in professional bakery settings with its ability to make designs out of candy. NASA has given the makers of Foodini a grant to research "off-world" food processing. It seems to make more sense to build food this way on the International Space Station than for me to replace my microwave with this gadget. The other 3-d printer you can experience at the Maker Faire is called Dovetailed. Dovetailed is a fruit printer that uses a molecular gastronomy technique to build fruit out of small bubbles of liquid. So you can create a "raspberry" out of strawberry juice, or basically any other mixed fruit creation you can imagine. Basically if it is shaped like cavier, you can make it.
     We're a long way from walking into the kitchen stating what we'd like to eat and having that dish pop out of a device for us. It is interesting that we are now using such high tech equipment to do tasks that we could easily do by hand if we put aside just a few extra minutes. According to Michael Pollan in his book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation the average American spends only 27 minutes a day preparing food. When thinking about these food printers and what we are willing to do or buy to make things easier or faster, I am reminded of a quote from Pollan in his book: "When you consider that twenty-seven minutes is less time than it takes to watch a single episode of Top Chef or The Next Food Network Star, you realize that there are now millions of people who spend more time watching food being cooked on television than they spend actually cooking it themselves. I don't need to point out that the food you watch being cooked on television is not food you get to eat." Now, I enjoy watching the mentioned food shows myself, but I also spend a lot of time in the kitchen (by choice). It's really a choice whether you are willing to carve out the time to cook, or you want to spend that time doing something else. We all have different priorities and that is ok. I'm not sure if 3-d food printing will actually be a way of the future for everyone, but perhaps for some it seems like an interesting way to save time in the kitchen.

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