Fast Company has up an interesting article on the newest development in 3D printing: food.
The newest 3-D food printer, now being honed at Cornell Creative Machines Lab, can produce: tiny space shuttle-shaped scallop nuggets; and cakes or cookies that, when you slice into them, reveal a special message buried within, like a wedding date, initials (image below) or a corporate logo. They can also make a solid hamburger patty, with liquid layers of ketchup and mustard, or a hamburger substitute that’s made from vegan or raw foods.
The CCML food printers require edible inks and electronic blueprints called FabApps. This machine prints food using multiple cartridges, going line by line until the desired shape is extruded. “The electronic blueprint specifies exactly which materials go where—it is essentially a blueprint of the food item,” says Hod Lipson, the head of the lab.
A scientific paper on the process and on many of the implications is here.
Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF) of food has the potential to drastically impact both culinary professionals and laypeople; the technology will fundamentally change the ways we produce and experience food. Several imposing barriers to food-SFF have been overcome by recent open- source printing projects. Now, materials issues present the greatest challenge. While the culinary field of molecular gastronomy can solve many of these challenges, careful attention must be given to contain materials-set bloat. Using a novel combination of hydrocolloids (xanthium gum and gelatin) and flavor agents, texture and flavor can be independently tuned to produce printing materials that simulate a broad range of foods, with only a minimal number of materials. In addition to extensively exploring future applications of food-SFF, we also present a rigorous proof-of-concept investigation of hydrocolloids for food-SFF. A two-dimensional mouthfeel rating system was created (stiffness vs. granularity) and various hydrocolloid mixtures were characterized via an expert panel of taste testers.