3D print your own breakfast A 3D printed dish made with the lab's printer. (Timothy Lee Photographers, Columbia University)
3D print your own breakfast
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Imagine coming down for breakfast. You don’t pop a piece of toast in the toaster or boil an egg. Instead, you stick a cartridge in a printer. A minute or two goes by. Then you’ve got a freshly printed banana and a muffin.

The printed breakfast is several steps closer to reality for the average consumer.

"Food printing may be the 'killer app' of 3D printing." That's according to Hod Lipson. He's led the creation of the new printer. "It's completely uncharted territory." 

Lipson is a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University. He has been studying 3D printing for nearly 20 years. He is working on printing things like plastics, metals, electronics and biomaterials. His work on 3D food printing came out of his research on printing complete 3D robots. They could, in theory, “walk off the printer.”  

What does it take to achieve something like this? A printer must be able to print with many materials at the same time. Lipson experimented with making multi-material printers. He noticed the students in his lab were beginning to use food as a test material.

“They were using cookie dough, cheese, chocolate, all kinds of food materials you might find around an engineering lab,” he says. “In the beginning, it was sort of a frivolous thing. But when people came to the lab and looked at it, they actually got really excited by the food printing.”

Lipson and his team began to take a more serious look at just what they could do with food. There are two basic approaches to 3D food printing, Lipson explains. The first involves using powders. They are bound together during the printing process with a liquid such as water. The second approach is extrusion-based. It uses syringes that deposit gels or pastes in specific locations.

Lipson’s prototype involves an infrared cooking element. It  cooks various parts of the printed product at specific times.

“We’ve used all kinds of materials, with different levels of success,” Lipson says. 

“Sometimes the materials are conventional. Cream cheese is something students like to work with a lot.”

They’ve also recently collaborated with a New York culinary school. They let chefs play around with the prototype.

“They kind of broke the machine by really pushing it to its limits,” Lipson says. 

“One thing we’ve learned is printing in cream cheese is very easy. But printing in polenta and beets is very hard. It has these granules in it.  So from an engineering standpoint it’s much more challenging.”

It’s also difficult to predict how different foods will fare when combined. It’s easy enough to create recipes based on single items like chocolate. Those properties are well-established. But when you start to mix things together the mixtures may have much more complex behaviors. 

Another challenge is figuring out when to cook what during the printing process. If you’re printing a pyramid of salmon and mashed potatoes, the salmon and the potatoes will need very different cooking times and temperatures. The team is tackling this problem with software design. They are working with computer scientists to create software that will predict what the final product will look like.

The printer Lipson's team has made is not the only food printer to be developed in recent years. There are products like Hershey’s chocolate-printing CocoJet or the Magic Candy Factory’s 3D gummy printer. They are both for single-ingredients. This limits their use for the general public. Lipson’s printer is unique. It is able to handle many ingredients at once and cook them as it goes.

Lipson sees the printer as having two main uses for consumers. First, it could be a specialty appliance for cooking novel foods. These are difficult to achieve by any other process. You could print, say, a complex pastry designed by someone in Japan or a recipe you’d never have the expertise or equipment to make by hand. Lipson says he could imagine digital recipes going viral. He can see them spreading across the globe. 

The second use is about health and targeted nutrition. People are already increasingly interested in personal biometrics. This includes tracking their blood pressure, pulse, calorie burn and more. They do so using cell phones and computers. In the future, it may be possible to track your own health in much greater detail such as your blood sugar, your calcium needs or your current vitamin D level. The printer could then respond to those details with a customized meal. This is produced from a cartridge of ingredients.

“Imagine a world where the breakfast that you eat has exactly what you need that day,” Lipson says. “Your muffin has, say, a little less sugar, a little more calcium.”

When might the printer might be available to consumers? Lipson says it’s more a business challenge than a technology one.

“How do you get FDA approval? How do you sell the cartridges? Who owns the recipe? How do you make money off this?” he says. “It’s a completely new way of thinking about food. It’s very radical.”

A recent redesign of the prototype may bring the product closer to being something the average consumer would accept. Previous versions of the printer were very high-tech and full of tubes and sticking-out nozzles. People had a hard time imagining it on their kitchen counters.

Then, one of Lipson’s students named Drim Stokhuijzen, an industrial designer, completely redesigned the machine. He gave it the sleek look of a high-end coffee maker.

“His design is so beautiful people are saying for the first time, ‘oh, I can see the appeal of food printing, this is something I might actually use,’” Lipson says.

Although Lipson doesn’t think 3D food printing will replace other cooking techniques, he does think it will change the kitchen.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
If you could 3D print your breakfast, what would it be and why?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (115)
  • Gabbyk-dav1
    9/25/2017 - 01:46 p.m.

    In response to "3D print your own breakfast," I agree that 3D printing things, especially food is nice and easy. One reason I agree is that 3D printing your breakfast could make your meal take less time. Another reason is that it can make breakfast way easier. It says in the article "Then, one of Lipson’s students named Drim Stokhuijzen, an industrial designer, completely redesigned the machine. He gave it the sleek look of a high-end coffee maker." A third reason is that it looks nice so people will also want to buy it for that reason. Even though it is smart and would make things easier, I think that it isn't something to invest in.

  • GraceAnnm-dav
    9/25/2017 - 01:49 p.m.

    I agree with the author, printing food on a 3D printer is a very good idea. If you can print almost any 3D object with a 3D printer, than why not be able to print food. I'm glad people in the labs are working on ways to print food because cooking is so time consuming. You could spend lots of money on a stove and a microwave, but why when you can just print your meals. This article taught me a lot, and I really liked it.

  • Isabellei-dav
    9/25/2017 - 01:50 p.m.

    In response to "3D print your own breakfast" I agree that having a 3D printer in your kitchen would be helpful. The main reason it would be helpful is because it would make it easier to make breakfast when you are in a hurry. It says in the article that it could put in the nutritous that you need in the food you are eating from the 3D printer. Another reason that I think that the 3D printer is a good idea is you could also try new recipies that you thought were to hard and try it on the 3D printer and see if you like it . The good thing about trying new recipes is they could be better for you then what you were going to cook. Even though I think it is a good idea , I think
    people might stop cooking and that can cause people to heavily reply on this machine that could break and then you wouldn't have dinner because you have forgotten how to cook.

  • Mariannaf-dav
    9/25/2017 - 01:51 p.m.

    In response to " 3D Print Your Own Breakfast", I disagree that printing food is a good idea. One reason is because when trying to combine food, one item may not get cooked long enough."If you’re printing a pyramid of salmon and mashed potatoes, the salmon and the potatoes will need very different cooking times and temperatures." Another reason is that there are many unknown parts of this experiment."“How do you get FDA approval? How do you sell the cartridges? Who owns the recipe? How do you make money off this?” he says. “It’s a completely new way of thinking about food. It’s very radical.” The final reason that printing food is bad is because the textures of different items make them harder to print."“One thing we’ve learned is printing in cream cheese is very easy. But printing in polenta and beets is very hard. It has these granules in it. So from an engineering standpoint it’s much more challenging.” Although this may be a faster way to prepare food, I don't think 3D printing is going to be as successful as the media claims.

  • Brennanh-dav
    9/25/2017 - 01:52 p.m.

    In response to the topic of this article, 3D printing your own breakfast is a fantastic idea in my opinion. I think it seems like a weird concept at first, but reading about it definitely can change that thought. This idea especially would work for me, considering i have a boring bowl of cereal almost every morning. “Imagine a world where the breakfast that you eat has exactly what you need that day,” Lipson says in the article. There is thing I find quite... unappealing. That is I would be eating food in a cartridge being cooked by a printer. In conclusion, I think this new invention seems like a great idea that needs a bit of improvement, but could easily end up in stores in the future.

  • Tessf-dav
    9/25/2017 - 01:52 p.m.

    In response to "3D print your own breakfast", I agree that it would be very fascinating, cool, and exciting. One reason why I agree is that you would save time and would not have to cook.Another reason is that it will help your diet based on your specific needs. It says in the article,“Imagine a world where the breakfast that you eat has exactly what you need that day,”. The final reason that I would support the 3D food is if you were bad at cooking you would not have to worry about it tasting really bad.

    In this article, it talks about making food from a 3D printer. There are a few complications from a technological standpoint and a business standpoint. This could work out and would be a great help but for now, I guess we will continue to make our own food.

  • Vickyd-dav
    9/25/2017 - 01:52 p.m.

    In response to "3D Print Your Own Breakfast" , I agree on that making breakfast with a 3D printer is a good idea. One reason I agree is that they said," it could be a specialty appliance for cooking novel foods." Another reason why it is a good idea it that is that it could help about the health and targeted nutrition. It says in the article, "One thing we’ve learned is printing in cream cheese is very easy. But printing in polenta and beets is very hard. It has these granules in it. So from an engineering standpoint it’s much more challenging."The third reason is that it includes tracking their blood pressure, pulse, calorie burn and more. Even though it help appliance for cooking novel foods, I think it is a good idea to make breakfast out of a 3D printer.

  • Charlesk-dav
    9/25/2017 - 01:52 p.m.

    3D printing is a cool concept in general, but theirs always that one person or group that takes it to the next level.
    I could see 3D printing foods taking off and quickly taking over the food industry. I could also see myself eating 3D printed food some time in the near future. So in conclusion I think that 3D printing food is a great idea that has a lot of potential.

  • Guillermof-dav
    9/25/2017 - 01:54 p.m.

    In response to "3D Print Your own breakfast," I agree that 3D printing is a faster and it will help us know what we should eat everyday. One reason I agree is it will save time if we use this new invention.Another reason is that 3D printing our food will help us be healthier because it could give us suggestions on what we should consume. Even though some people don't like it, I think it is cool..

  • Courtneyc-dav1
    9/25/2017 - 01:54 p.m.

    In response to, "3D Print Your Own Breakfast" where it talks about how Lipston, a scientist and his team are trying to create a 3D printer that will successfully print out food. I agree that having a 3D printer print out your food would change the way we cook forever. One reason I agree is because if you were particularly low on calcium you could program the printer to add more calcium in your muffin to better your health. Another reason I agree is because if you don't have the proper ingredients or cooking materials, you could just print that food. Finally, the last reason I agree with this is because to make a very complicated meal or food you could do very little work and possibly use very little materials to have it created for you. Even though it is most likely that it won't be happening for awhile, it will definitely be worth the wait.

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