Food print

3D food printer aims to help promote home cooking

By Claire Marchand

“Darling, what should I print for dinner tonight?” Not cook, not bake, but print. This question, which, six months ago would have seemed odd, may be one frequently asked in households later this year. The 3D printer – where anything from a prosthetic foot for a duck to a toy car or a handgun can be created in a matter of hours – is now set to revolutionize the way food is prepared.

The Foodini 3D printer (Photo: Natural Machines)

Customizing your kitchen preps

Foodini, as it is called, is a 3D printer that can produce a range of foodstuffs, from chocolate cake, to cheeseburger, ravioli or pizza and more, providing the ingredients fed into the machine are soft, moist and malleable. The device can print food items in a variety of shapes and also be used for the finishing touch, such as decorating plates, squirting on a pattern of icing or applying a layer of melted cheese. Food lovers can use their imagination and creativity to come up with customized, visually appealing dishes.

Like a regular printer

Foodini works as any other 3D printer, squeezing liquid materials onto a printing bed. It can hold five capsules, each potentially containing a different ingredient, in much the same way a normal printer has cartridges containing different coloured ink. As and when each ingredient is required, the computer automatically switches from one capsule to another and then pumps their contents, at different rates of pressure and temperature, through the extruder. The machine has a heater built in to keep the food warm during the printing process.

The capsules can be home-filled but for those who want to make it as easy as possible, pre-filled, ready-to-use capsules will also be available.

Promoting home cooking

Interestingly enough, the Foodini 3D printer encourages something that many of us gave up on years ago: home cooking. Preparing a pizza or a quiche from A to Z, instead of takeaways or  the frozen stuff bought from supermarkets, can become a fun thing to do.

A recipe for success?

Unveiled by Barcelona-based Natural Machines last December, the Foodini is expected to be on the market mid-2014. The launch drew a lot of media attention, but while journalists focused extensively on the technical features of the 3D printer, none commented on how the Foodini preparations tasted. The guess is their taste and flavour will depend on the quality of the ingredients used.

Several other companies are working on 3D food printers. Will they become a fixture in our kitchens, the way microwave ovens have? Only time – the next 12 months or so – will tell…

foodini_machine2 The Foodini 3D printer (Photo: Natural Machines)
foodini-3 Four stages in the preparation of a pizza (Photo: Natural Machines)
spinach_quiche Spinach dinosaurs being printed (Photo: Natural Machines)