3D printing of food

Gael Delamare, Production and Processing Scientist

3D printing/additive manufacturing is a rapidly growing technology. 3D printers work by using software to create 3D shapes and printing ‘slices’ of the shapes one after another. Any paste-type materials such as meat purees, fruit and vegetable purees, biscuits, cakes, cream, pasta, chocolate and confectionery can be printed.

In this video, Gael Delamare, explains how a member funded research project will evaluate 3D printing to assess its potential for the food industry.

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3D printing of food or additive manufacturing is a rapidly growing technology. It is based on layer-by-layer deposition using computer-aided design. It is already widespread for customised small-scale manufacturing or prototyping of engineering components for the aircraft and biomedical sectors. Now the food industry is getting interested in it due to its potential benefits. It could be used for late customisation of food in terms of colour shape or flavour as well as nutrition and diet. It could also be used to minimise food waste and reduce NPD times. Different types of ingredient can be printed depending on the technology.

Currently the most common technology for food applications is fused deposition modelling. It can be used to print any paste like material that can be extruded that can set into a predefined shape. Nevertheless, 3D printing is still in its infancy for food applications, so we don't have all the answers yet, but we'll be looking at them in our member-funded research (MFR) project.

During this MFR project we are evaluating the potential of fused deposition modelling for possible food applications like bakery products, chocolate, fruits, vegetables and meat. We are also doing some rheology work to characterise the behaviour of the food as they are printed and then we can change the recipes of the food materials to improve the rheology and the printing quality.

We are also using our imaging capabilities to replicate shapes and characterize the printing quality and in parallel we are also investigating the potential of 3D printing of food for personalised nutrition and personised diets.

If you want to find out more, you can visit the project website or we are also organising a 3D printing of food seminar in June at our Chipping Camden site.

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