Everyone loves bacon. The problem is that everyone loves bacon so much it tends to quickly run out. What if, instead of having to run to the store to buy more juicy meat strips, you could just print some out? Someday soon that dream may become reality. Bacon is just one of many foods being created with 3D printing.
Hungry researchers at Cornell University’s Creative Machine’s Lab have been working with 3D printers and the French Culinary Institute to create delicacies fresh from the printer. Using a modified inkjet 3D printer and materials ranging from chocolate, cookie dough and hydrocolloids (more on this shortly), the team has printed chocolate and sugar cookies, space shuttle shaped scallops, turkey with celery interiors, and other interesting foodstuffs.
Not only can this process produce edible (and hopefully tasty) food, it can also produce it in shapes that aren’t possible with traditional forms of cooking. Imagine printing out meatloaf in the shape of a bull, creating edible sculptures from sugar and gelatin, or, maybe most interestingly, including messages in your food. How cool would mom seem if happy birthday was printed inside the cake, rather than on it.
So what exactly makes the food? Protein gels and hydrocolloids are responsible for a fair amount of the non-desert type foods being printed. According to the French Culinary Institute, hydrocolloids are, “large molecules that interact with water, and are defined as a type of mechanical mixture where one substance is dispersed evenly throughout water.” While that might not sound particularly appetizing, hydrocolloids basically act as food ink. They can be flavored and can produce different textural consistencies depending on how they are treated.