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
Lexile

Imagine coming down for breakfast. Instead of popping a piece of toast in the toaster and boiling an egg, you stick a cartridge in a printer. You wait a minute or two. Then you’ve got a freshly printed banana and flaxseed 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 and 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.”

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.”

So 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 that 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, letting 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, whose properties are well-established. But when you start to mix things together - mixing, of course, being fundamental to cooking - 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, working with computer scientists to create software that will predict what the final product will look like after cooking.

The printer Lipson's team has made is not the only food printer to be developed in recent years. But products like Hershey’s chocolate-printing CocoJet or the Magic Candy Factory’s 3D gummy printer are single-ingredient, limiting their use for the general public. Lipson’s printer is unique for being 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 difficult to achieve by any other process. You could print, say, a complex pastry designed by someone in Japan, a recipe you’d never have the expertise or equipment to make by hand. Lipson says he could imagine digital recipes going viral, spreading across the globe. 

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

As for when 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, 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, giving 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 upgrade 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 (57)
  • Mackenzieri-dav
    9/25/2017 - 09:00 a.m.

    In response to " 3D print your own breakfast" , I agree that 3D cooking should replace many other cooking ways. One reason I agree that 3D cooking should replace other cooking ways is that it would be faster to make food. For example if you are in a hurry and you need to make food for your kids you can quickly 3D print food for all of them. Another reason is that some people have trouble cooking things that they want to eat. They would be able to not have to worry about burning or messing up there food. It says in the article, "Imagine coming down for breakfast. Instead of popping a piece of toast in the toaster and boiling an egg, you stick a cartridge in a printer. You wait a minute or two. Then you’ve got a freshly printed banana and flaxseed muffin". A third reason is that, You do not have to worry about buying tons of food so that you can have a different breakfast everyday. Even though I think that it could take away jobs for cooking since no one wold need a chef to cook them hard food, i still think its a good idea to replace some things with 3D cooking.

  • Nicolasp-dav
    9/25/2017 - 09:01 a.m.

    I agree with Lipson, where 3D printing will not replace how we are cooking, " It will just be an upgrade to the kitchen." I also don't get why you cant just make your noodles like everyone else. If it takes longer than ten minutes to print your food then you could have time to just make it with your hands.I also think if you are going to make breakfast for more than 1 person it is not as helpful unless you have two but I think these are going to be expensive. And if you can only print breakfast you will only use it once a day. If you and a friend are in a rush to get somewhere and you think you can just 3D print it but you can't because you have two people.

  • Oliviak-dav
    9/25/2017 - 09:02 a.m.

    In response to this article,"3D Print your own dish", I agree that it would be easier and we could turn into something amazing if we created a printer that makes food.The only problem is will the food taste artifical or good? The next thing I really was confused about is how they make food just using sugars and powder is that even possible? In the text it says,"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".So I used this quote to show how confusing the idea is.If they pull it off I will be happy though.

  • Alip-dav1
    9/25/2017 - 09:02 a.m.


    In response to "3D Print Your Own Breakfast," I agree that 3D printing food can replace many cooking techniques. One reason I agree is that you could be in a rush to get to sports or late for a meeting, you could just print a quick meal and be on your way. Another reason is that say you are busy and can't go to the store you could just print food until you get a chance to go. It says in the article it says,"Imagine coming down for breakfast. Instead of popping a piece of toast in the toaster and boiling an egg, you stick a cartridge in a printer. You wait a minute or two. Then you’ve got a freshly printed banana and flaxseed muffin." . A third reason you might want to try something new but don't want to waste any money, you could just print that itea and decide if it's worth buying. Even though you might think it's a crazy idea, I think it would be a cool thing to try out.

  • AvaC-dav
    9/25/2017 - 09:03 a.m.


    In response to "3D Print Your Own Breakfast," I agree that being able to 3D print your own food is a great idea.One reason I agree is because it could make preparing food go a lot faster. Another reason is that There could make really fancy meals become super easy to make. It says in the article you could print a complex pastry designed by someone in Japan. A third reason is that it wont look bad in your kitchen because one of Lipson's students designed it to look like a coffee maker. Overall I think that 3D printing is a really good. Idea.
    _______________________.

  • Peytonh-dav
    9/25/2017 - 10:49 a.m.

    I know that you can 3D print toys but i think it is crazy how they can 3D print foods . You need to program the printer to cook the food and make it look real. But will the food taste good you never know you will just have try it out.

  • Edwardh-dav
    9/25/2017 - 10:51 a.m.

    "3D Print Your Breakfast"

    This is a good article because it shows how technology has advanced over the years printing out ready to eat food that you don't have to cook is amazing it can save people so much time. Time is so important these days what if you woke up ten minutes before school starts you get ready and you just have to wait 1 to 2 min for breakfast.

  • Kevinm-dav1
    9/25/2017 - 10:54 a.m.

    I would print waffles because waffles are super good and i would like to watch my waffles print it would be really cool to sit on your couch and watch your waffles just appear from my printer.

  • jackiek-orv
    9/25/2017 - 11:29 a.m.

    i'd still like to cook my own food. what if something goes wrong?

  • ethanm-orv
    9/25/2017 - 11:39 a.m.

    I wouldn't trust the printer.What if it printed materials that are harmful to the human body

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