In this week’s issue of C&EN, I wrote a story about 3-D printers—those machines that build solid objects one layer at a time--and the materials that scientists are developing for use with the technology. I’ve had a slight obsession with 3-D printing in the past (see here and here for posts about using the machines for creating buildings and identifying the remains of soldiers), but this article, to my delight, allowed me to go “full tilt” on the subject.
Near the end of the story, Cornell’s Hod Lipson, director of the Creative Machines Lab, says that food printing in particular might just be the “killer app” that drives the market for 3-D printers. He likens it to how the demand for faster, more complex, better-looking video games drove the development of personal computing technology. One day, he believes, every person will have a 3-D printer in the kitchen, just like we all have computers in our offices now.
The Creative Machines Lab runs the Fab@home project which released online the blueprints some years ago for a 3-D printer that works by squeezing pastes and slurries out of syringes. The technology relies on the materials to harden in some way after printing. Once the plans for the printer were made open-access in 2007, people began printing various types of food.
To supplement my story this week, I thought I’d share some rad videos of food printing to pique your appetite—for 3-D printers as well as the food they can create.
In the video above, David Arnold, a chef at the French Culinary Institute, in New York, prints masa, a corn-based dough (think tortillas), into neat shapes. He then steams it and fries it for some crunchy goodness. Although Arnold has said on his blog that he fears a future in which 3-D printers are used to print out dinner from a series of homogenous pastes, he thinks that the technology can be useful in some situations. Cookies, for instance.
For those who are overwhelmed by all those Christmas cookies you’re soon expected to make, Arnold says one of these printers could help you out.
Cue video #2, in which the folks at Fab@home demonstrate the ability of one of their printers to ice cookies and (in the middle segment) print the cookies themselves from dough. So, in a few weeks, instead of slaving in the kitchen, you could set the printer to fabricate a bunch of cookies on a sheet while you go watch that episode of “The Walking Dead” you've been meaning to catch up on.
Jeffrey Lipton, a second-year grad student in the Creative Machines Lab (you see him in the CNN/David Arnold video above), told me that a lot of people have been using the Fab@home machines to print foods like Cheez Whiz, chocolate, and Nutella.
And cue video #3. Here’s a video of some folks in Norway printing Nutella in a tetrahedral shape. They shared this clip on the Fab@home YouTube channel. I have no idea what they are saying, but I love the enthusiasm. I’d be at least that excited about combining two of my favorite things: the hazelnut-flavored delight with the futuristic DIY technology.