3D food printers head for mass production

By the end of the year, 3D food printers will be in people’s homes for the first time, with the first thought to be produced by Natural Machines.

While a few companies have been working on the technology, Natural Machine’s Foodini looks to be the first in an oncoming wave of mass production in 3D food printing.

The Foodini machine is an open capsule model, in which the user places fresh ingredients and then tells the Foodini what to make with them. For example, rather than hand making ravioli from start to finish, you just load the dough and filling into the machine and it will print individual ravioli for you.

3D printed burgers made using a Foodini 3D food printer

3D printed burgers made using a Foodini 3D food printer

The notion behind the machine, and where it fits into average household usage, is to encourage better eating.

According to the Natural Machines website: “Today, too many people eat too much convenience foods, processed foods, packaged foods, or pre-made meals – many with ingredients that are unidentifiable to the common consumer, versus homemade, healthy foods and snacks. But there is the problem of people not having enough time to make homemade foods from scratch.

“Enter Foodini. Foodini is a kitchen appliance that takes on the difficult parts of making food that is hard or time-consuming to make fully by hand. By 3D printing food, you automate some of the assembly or finishing steps of home cooking, thus making it easier to create freshly made meals and snacks.”  

The notion of replacing the hand crafting process of cooking with 3D printing may well seem a strange one, perhaps raising concerns of a reduction of people’s skill and effort. While it is certainly a better option than potentially more suspect ready meals, there is an element to which the idea of machines like the Foodini may detract from the craft of cooking.

However, although it allows those who would not usually be in a position to hand make ravioli to enjoy food they would otherwise not, it may also make it too easy for those who are able to make said food to simply not bother.  

The Foodini 3D food printer. Images courtesy of Natural Machines

The Foodini 3D food printer. Images courtesy of Natural Machines

The worries of excess convenience aside, it is reassuring to see a focus on homemade food and quality eating. And with 3D printing ever developing, a future where we use it to manufacture our meals as well as our homes is perhaps not so far-fetched. As to when you should expect this, it is hard to say.

The Foodini currently sells at $4,000, somewhat above what the average consumer can be expected to spend. Yet if successful, a growing market could see the price steadily come down to the point where, in the future, we may expect every home to utilise 3D printing as a regular part of their cooking.

Natural Machines’ device will be initially released by the end of the year, but the next production batch will not be available until some time in 2017. So if you wish to be a part of the first wave of home 3D food printing, place your order quickly.

Björk showcases the comfy future of 3D printed fashion

3D printed clothing that is both form-fitting and comfortable to wear is heading for the mainstream thanks to technology showcased today by the artist Björk.

The 3D-printable material, Nano Enhanced Elastomeric Technology (NEET), has been developed by 3D printing giant Stratasys and will be available commercially later this year.

Today it is been used in a mask developed with the company’s multi-material 3D printing technology, which is designed to perfectly mimic Björk’s musculoskeletal structure using 3D scans of her face. The mask is called Rottlace, a variant on the Icelandic word for skinless.

“Inspired by their biological counterpart and conceived as ‘muscle textiles’, the mask is a bundled, multi-material structure, providing formal and structural integrity, as well as movement to the face and neck,” said mask designer Professor Neri Oxman, from MIT Media Lab’s Mediated Matter group.

Image courtesy of Matt Carasella. Featured image courtesy of Santiago Felipe

The Pangolin 3D printed dress, designed by threeASFOUR. Image courtesy of Matt Carasella. Featured image courtesy of Santiago Felipe

Despite being made of several materials, including NEET, which allows it to stretch, the mask was printed in one sitting, meaning the technology could be used for custom manufacturing on a significant scale.

For Oxman, however, it could also allow high-end clothing and textiles designers to stretch the limits of their creativity.

“Multi-material 3D printing enables the production of elaborate combinations of graded properties, distributed over geometrically complex structures within a single object,” she said. “With Rottlace, we designed the mask as a synthetic ‘whole without parts’.”

Björk performed in the mask at an event streamed in VR at the Tokyo Miraikan Museum, as part of a virtual reality project dubbed BJÖRK DIGITAL, which finishes on 18th July.

She also wore a 3D printed dress that uses the material on 4th June, during a performance in Sydney as part of the project. Named Pangolin, the dress was designed by avant-garde fashion collective threeASFOUR, which has produced several 3D printed garments with Stratasys using the NEET material, and was originally launched earlier this year at New York Fashion week.

Featuring intricate interlocking panels, the garments looks carefully and expensively tailored, but with a fit and feel that makes it comfortable to wear.

If the technology becomes widely available, it could be revolutionary for fashion.

Despite its potential, 3D printed clothing has so far been restricted jewellery and accessories, with the few 3D printed garments available sacrificing looks for functionality.

However Stratasys’ technology could change that, and the company is planning plenty more showcases to further adoption.

“The Rottlace mask was designed for Björk while we are also working with Neri on a larger mask collection for Stratasys, which will debut later this year under the title ‘The New Ancient’,” says Naomi Kaempfer, Stratasys creative director of art, fashion and design.

“It’s an honor to see visionaries such as Björk embrace 3D printing for the expression of her art. This technology not only provides the freedom to produce perfect fitting costumes for the film and music industries, but also the inimitable capacity to materialize a unique fantasy to such a precise level of detail and 3D expression.”