3-D printers are all the rage lately, allowing customers who want to splurge to make everything from hats to lamps at home. In our food-centric society, it should be no surprise that the stomach hasn’t been left out of this technological joyride. Here, we answer your most burning questions about 3-D food printing.
At the most basic level, 3-D printers operate by creating a model of an object, then placing layer upon layer of additive material to create a three-dimensional version of that object.
Well, sort of.
Lots of companies are getting into the 3-D printing game, with varied results. In their current iterations, 3-D printers don’t actually cook food, but they do reduce prep time in the kitchen and enable cooks to make items into interesting shapes, or create fancy food decorations. With most 3-D printers, you load ingredients into a capsule and then program the printer to create whatever it is you want. But you still have to do the cooking part yourself.
3-D printers can produce everything from ravioli to chocolate, although they aren’t super focused on healthfulness at the moment. The ChefJet series, produced by 3D Systems, relies on ingredient capsules to produce small-serving baked goods and cake toppers. Primarily intended for professional use, these printers run between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on their size and output. So far, many companies have focused on creating a 3-D printer that makes one or two things well, rather than trying for a printer that can make everything from hors d’oeuvres to dessert.
Right now you’ll have to settle for a professional-grade 3-D printer if you want to try this out at home. But it shouldn’t be too long before 3-D food printers are available at retail. The Natural Machines 3-D printer Foodini is easily the most hyped of the food printers, as it allows you to load fresh ingredients into the capsules and then wait while your food is prepped. Although you can’t buy Foodini at Bed Bath & Beyond just yet, keep an eye out, as food technology will only continue to evolve.