This is a guest contribution by Egor Driagin, CMO at Top3DGroup

3D food printing is now the object of various research. The goal is to evaluate how 3D food printing will help the industry.

3D-печать пищевых продуктов

3D Food Printing is Rapidly Developing

3D food printing is one of the fields of application of 3D printing. It’s a rapidly growing technology. As a result of such developments, new 3D printers are becoming available. These devices are used for 3D printing with various food materials.

Paste-like products must be formed into any shapes and structures with the use of 3D printing. These include chocolate, mash, and confectionery.

There are existing projects that aim to provide an objective and independent evaluation of the possibilities and limits of 3D printing. For example, they use practical tests of a wide range of food materials.

There are talks about developing personalized food based on the dietary requirements of various people. For example, adding vitamin D, calcium, and protein into the food for the elderly. Food can also be personalized with the aim to fix its lack of something: as examples, essential fatty acids, and food fibers.

3D Food Printing: Market Size

According to the predictions by Research and Markets, the market size of 3D food printing will grow to be $525.6 million by 2023 with an average annual increase of 16.1 percent. By 2025, it’s predicted to reach the size of around one billion dollars. But it’s far from the potential of the world food industry, which is expected to reach the market size of $250 billion by 2022.

Nevertheless, 3D food printing is a very healthy market segment. Especially considering the relatively recent addition of new people and companies that modified 3D printers to be used with food.

Data Bridge Market Research expects the market of 3D food printing to grow in the time period from 2020 to 2027. According to its predictions, the market size will reach $412.3 million by 2027. The CAGR will be 52.30 percent during the aforementioned period. 

The growing demand for more healthy and individualized food will stimulate the market for microencapsulation in the food industry.

3D-печать продуктов сокращает отходы

3D Food Printing Reduces the Waste

Around one-third of all food in the world is wasted. The farmers, wholesale vendors, supermarkets, and government companies work individually or collectively on their local markets to solve the problem of food waste.

The numbers of food loss look massive. They also stand to be a great motivation for finding new opportunities to cut the waste. While its percentage is relatively small compared to the overall food manufacturing volume, 3D printing can play an interesting role in solving such problems. 

The decisions by supermarkets to throw overripe food away is not the only problem. The consumers who want only perfectly looking products also play a role. Fruits and vegetables are often thrown away due to their overripeness and imperfect looks.

There's an experiment being conducted in the Netherlands, it covers the restaurant industry, even though the supermarkets have a massive excess of food (but it’s going to be in the next stage of experiments). Hotel companies can rent or buy 3D printers, which will allow them to recycle the excess back into edible food.

The students showed a presentation to the restaurant owners and other people who had an interest. It happened in Hubble Community Café. The feedback was quite positive, the people present at the event pointed to the fact that a lot of food is thrown away, although it still can be used. But when talking about 3D printers, they found some practical problems.

To see how a 3D printer would operate in the restaurant, the students tested the process in Karpendonkse Hoeve in Eindhoven.

“The client's reaction was very positive,” says Ingrid van Eeghem, the owner of Karpendonkse Hoeve. “A group of people who went to have dinner with us even wanted to 3D print their own logo.” According to her, their cooks not only managed to create new styles but also tried new recipes.

“It’s very interesting to check how much excess food you can use,” Ingrid continues. “We threw away smaller amounts than usual.” Moreover, it seems like the experience played a role in creating very comfortable worker-client chemistry. “Apart from kitchen workers, service staff also actively interacted with the printer,” Ingrid explains. “They kept it in a workable state or showed to the clients how it operates.”

Authorities, manufacturers, sellers, and supermarkets are already trying to reduce the amount of waste using various ways. 3D printed food can add some new ideas to the discussion, as well as the methods to solve the problem.

Продукты для 3д печати

Materials and Products for 3D Food Printing

A short answer: anything paste-like or in a semi-liquid state. Or that can be turned to have the right consistency for 3D printing. This includes a wide range of salty foods. For example, grated vegetables, dough, cheese, and confectionery. Also jelly, icings, sugar decorations, chocolate, and mashed fruits.

The Pros of 3D Food Printing

Consuming 3D printed food is fully safe, provided it was manufactured using a suitable machine in a sterile environment. There are also other pros apart from creating great-looking meals. 

Individual Customization of Food:

3D food printing can offer precision. From the point of regulation of variety and amount of nutrients and calories in rations. It can be quite important in the hospitals with nutritional care.

Non-traditional Food: 

One can make nutritious plants and protein-rich insects look more desirable while preparing them in a semi-liquid state. This will stimulate consumption. In the future, even synthetic food could be 3D printed.

Easy Reproducibility:

Exchanging and sharing recipes can be as simple as sending a file over the Internet. All one would need is the same material, set parameters, and compatible equipment.

The new technology also provides many opportunities to make consuming the foods such as meat more rational and to make space-traveling more comfortable, offering new ways to make food in space.

The abilities are endless and will definitely continue to exceed our expectations in the future.

3D-печать пищевых продуктов - проблемы

The Issues of 3D Food Printing

But there’s a set of problems encountered in this niche. From printing materials to searching for ready materials.

There are two important things in regular 3D printing: reliability and speed. In 3D food printing, two more components can be added to the list.

  1. Reliability: Ideally one would each print to be as accurate, like the one before. 3D food printing can provide it, but the result is often limited in texture unless there are fragile sugar structures being printed.
  2. Speed: 3D printing all meals for a whole restaurant will take a lot of time. And the chefs are usually short on time. The conclusion is that 3D food printing is still too slow for mass production. Other limitations include the costs of equipment and materials, as well as the time spent on training.
  3. Cost: Specialized 3D food printers are expensive. The way to save money is to add any nozzle from a regular 3D printer. But the satisfying results will be only provided by specialized 3D food printers.
  4. Safety: No one wants to jeopardize their health. So everything about a 3D food printer must be clean, sterile, and safe for food.

There are experimental projects. For example, 3D printing food in space.

Commercial usage is the biggest segment of end-users. The devices will be tested by bakeries, luxury restaurants, and wholesale shops.

According to the review, global food manufacturing is going through large changes. 3D food printing is a great technology. 

But the main issues with such innovations are related to figuring out how to produce a reliable and stable food manufacturing system in the world where needs are changing. For one, it’s expected that 3D food printing will offer new methods to feed the ever-growing world population.

3D Printers: Food

Professional 3D Printers

Before 2017, it looked like synthetic meat is the top innovation that modern science can offer for the food industry. But this changed with an Israeli startup named Redefine Meat (or Eat-Jet) that emerged in 2019 and is focused on 3D printing meat steaks.

The project is working on a technology that could make it possible to offer a plant-based meat alternative. Or to be more exact: beefsteaks, roasts, and stewed meat based on natural ingredients. Such an approach combines patented 3D printing technology, digital modeling, and developing recipes for a plant base.

What Else Could Additive Manufacturing Bring to the Food Industry?

3D food printing can produce chocolate, pasta, sugar, and even more meals: the possibilities are nearly endless.

Professional 3D food printers can be smaller than could be expected from such devices. 

There are only a few of them available now. And most of them are desktop devices. There are no industrial-grade 3D food printers. 3D printers for food available.

Nevertheless, 3D food printing done with such devices is already used in catering, events, and restaurants. 


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