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3-D Printable Food Gets Funding From NASA 242

cervesaebraciator writes "According to Quartz, '[Anjan Contractor's] Systems & Materials Research Corporation just got a six month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype of his universal food synthesizer. But Contractor, a mechanical engineer with a background in 3-D printing, envisions a much more mundane — and ultimately more important — use for the technology. He sees a day when every kitchen has a 3-D printer, and the earth's 12 billion people feed themselves customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store. Contractor's vision would mean the end of food waste, because the powder his system will use is shelf-stable for up to 30 years, so that each cartridge, whether it contains sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein or some other basic building block, would be fully exhausted before being returned to the store.' No word yet on whether anyone other than the guy trying to sell the technology thinks it'll make palatable food."
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3-D Printable Food Gets Funding From NASA

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  • by Hsien-Ko ( 1090623 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:13PM (#43787075)
    The replicator!!!
  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:15PM (#43787099)

    We already eat foods that could be stored for years.

    But I still prefer to dry-freeze them in blocks and then cut them up on my CNC into regular food shapes.

  • What about.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sjwt ( 161428 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:15PM (#43787101)

    I hope it has a way to print a decent texture.. I would prefer not to live off mush.

    • I'd be careful about complaining about the food it prints to the cook. It probably will not be long before someone figures out how to make it print an edible gun.
    • I would image one could accomplish that by heating certain parts of the food more so than others while it prints the material.
      • by Smauler ( 915644 )

        You may well be able to imagine that.... but at our present technology, what you get from heating one bit more than another is one hot bit and one cold bit.

        Texture is independent of heat... The use of heat in cooking will create different textures, but the texture essentially comes from the base material, although carbonised black goo you can pretty much make with any starting material - generally this is considered a mistake.

        • by Genda ( 560240 )

          Yeah, instead you want to lay down fine layers of ingredients the expose it to a high frequency standing wave to mix materials at the antinodes. You introduce fibers and sheets of material this way and create all kinds of density changes giving it very complex structure. I want something that could print Sushi!

  • ...has already dispatched a team.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:22PM (#43787187) Homepage Journal

    Food Oil Cartridge is too low to allow non-oil based printing. You must replace ALL cartridges to continue printing.

    The printer has detected a refilled cartridge in it's carrier; system lock-out until brand new cartridge is inserted.

  • I'm not a Star Trek fan but this always reminds me of A. C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama. It is exciting to live in the future.

  • delicious and easy to print

    Astronauts will be eating a lot of nachos on Mars.

    You heard it here first.

  • H2G2G (Score:4, Funny)

    by dabadab ( 126782 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:26PM (#43787243)

    OK, so who will be the first to post the phrase "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea"?

    Oh, it was me.

  • He sees a day when every kitchen has a 3-D printer, and the earth's 12 billion people feed themselves customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store

    No flipping way. You'll have to pry my garden from my cold dead hands before I'm eating that shit.

  • by Sebastopol ( 189276 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:28PM (#43787283) Homepage

    ...don't care about palatable! i've seen children in cambodia eat bread crusts that are moldy, dirty, and soggy. quite sad, especially when 5U$D can buy enough bags of food to feed 30 kids for a day.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      maybe instead of sending food we should send birth control

      wait that would actually solve the problem which nobody really wants to do as long as there is money to be made in prolonging it

      • Yes, they could shove the condoms down the dictator's throat by the fistful until they get democracy and an equitable share of the food.

        In fact I would pay good money to watch that.

    • by oic0 ( 1864384 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:33PM (#43787367)
      if $5 could feed ME for a month I might actually have some money to donate :P
  • Who is this for? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WillgasM ( 1646719 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:30PM (#43787305) Homepage
    Other than astronauts and zombie bunkers, I don't see the appeal. We already pack strange synthetic food into cans that have more than enough shelf life for most occasions. I'd be willing to bet I'd prefer the taste and texture of said canned goods to whatever playdough this thing prints out. The only food that occasionally gets wasted around my house is fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat; none of which would really be replaced by this technology. If you find a way to print something more palatable that what I can already get from a can, then let me know.
    • Other than astronauts and zombie bunkers, I don't see the appeal. ...

      I'm afraid the zombie bunker market is non-viable. Why buy an expensive food printer and cartridges when you can buy my recently published 101 Ways to Cook a Zombie for $90 at any reputable book store? Trust me, it's a bargain!

  • by bobdehnhardt ( 18286 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:30PM (#43787307)

    I already have something like this. I input basic food components (including powders and oil, as needed) in a ordered fashion (sometimes layer by layer), and after a short time, I extract a customized, nutritionally-appropriate meal.

    It's called an "oven".

  • It's incredibly difficult and time-consuming to eat well.

    If there is an efficient way to get ALL the nutrients required in a safe and economic way, that's a great idea for times when cooking for "fun" is too much hassle.

    If I could be satiated and well-fed with a mouse-click that would give me more time to enjoy other things in life, and be better for my health too.

    • by Smivs ( 1197859 )

      It's incredibly difficult and time-consuming to eat well.

      No it's not!

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        So where can I buy pre-prepared heat-and-eat healthy meals? Most "TV dinners" are so loaded with sugar that I can't touch them, and spending the time to develop ancient and esoteric skills like "blacksmithing" or "cooking" aren't high up my list of hobbies this year.

    • by cusco ( 717999 )
      No. Not just 'no', but 'Are you flipping crazy?' no.

      Brown rice, beans (any kind you like, or multiple cooked together), dice a tomato and a chili into it. Microwave to warm. Chop some cheese and green onions, mix it in, microwave some more until hot. Eat with chips or tortillas. Less than five minutes, and I can do it so stoned that I can hardly focus on changing the CD player.
    • by aXis100 ( 690904 )


      An hour in the supermarket once a week, and half an hour every night to cook is somehow "incredibly difficult and time consuming"? You probably spend more time on facebook.

      Even better, if you learn to love cooking, it will become one of those "enjoy other things in life". Cooking can be immediately gratifying, as well as eating better you'll be happier and will impress others.

  • Right. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slapyslapslap ( 995769 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:32PM (#43787355)
    Because today's food made from powder sucks because of the method of reconstitution, and not the fact that it was made into a fucking powder in the first place.
  • Although it can be nutritionally appropriate, it may still not be good for the body. I am not a biologist, but I don't believe that the body is built for finely processed food. I am assuming that there is some research correlating highly processed/refined foods and the some of the common ailments in the western world.

    A great example I have seen showing processed vs non-processed foods is to simply put the food in a bowl of water. A lot of processed food will within a matter of minutes puff up to a multip

    • You are completely right, food like this would likely not contain any fibres. So digesting and moving it through your guts will be difficult, especially if your diet is based heavy on it.

      What is wrong witha fresh salad? And how would you print that in such a machine?

      • by Ken_g6 ( 775014 )

        You are completely right, food like this would likely not contain any fibres. a powder. I wonder what it will take to invent that? [] Maybe someday they can even make it flavorless and colorless! []

        • Hm, you seem to misunderstand how the guts work?

          A powder is by definition not a fibre.

          If it was once a fibre it is grinded down to a powder now, or it was not called a powder.

          Think of a fibre literally as of gras in your guts. You need that for a healthy digestive system.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        food like this would likely not contain any fibres

        Unless a minute of thought is put in :)
        Even the quick and nasty ring pull tin meals in the supermarket near me say things like "contains two serves of vegetables" with the chilli beef, chicken stew or whatever. If such things are not common over in the USA they probably will be soon. Fibre is going to be high on the list in the early stages now since people don't expect to live off twinkies anymore.

        Considering even viable nerve cells are being printed tha

        • Yeah, tomatoes.
          That is a thing. I did not buy tomatoes since 0 years, who the fuck are the idiot customers that do? Tomatoes in our days taste like (no shit is overrated) .. like nothing. Well, indeed hey have a foul undescribable side taste.
          In ten years I will start the hunt for old tomato plants, fortunately there is a huge movement in the USA to preserve plants and seeds. I hope we still can get them then and I make a garden of tomatoes only :D

    • by tragedy ( 27079 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @08:20PM (#43789141)

      A great example I have seen showing processed vs non-processed foods is to simply put the food in a bowl of water. A lot of processed food will within a matter of minutes puff up to a multiple of their size, and when stirred will simply break up into a liquid solution. Natural (unprocessed, even minimally processed) foods will generally stay together for a lot longer.

      That's not exactly a surprising observation. Same thing is true of most particleboard vs. unprocessed wood as well. You've failed to demonstrate at all why this would be a problem. Try your test on some chicken flesh compared to an identical piece of chicken flesh that's been chewed, swallowed, then chemically processed by enzymes and stomach acids in a human stomach. After you've tried that test, you may understand why your argument is easily dismissed by most people when you put it that way.

      That said, there are reasons more heavily processed foods may be worse for you than unprocessed. One of those reasons is that the processed foods often simply come from poorer base materials than the unprocessed foods, which is why they needed to be processed in the first place. If the unprocessed food is a nice cut of chicken breast and the processed food is ground up chicken cartilage with a little bone and other otherwise less than usable bits of the chicken after everything is else is stripped off, then the processed food typically won't be as good. That's not universally true though. The hydroxyl-apatite in ground bone can actually be an ideal source of bio-available calcium, for example, and various organ meats which people typically shun in low-processed form are full of great nutrition. The majority of what goes into the processed chicken patty, however, is crap. Figuratively and also, to some degree, literally. Processes get developed to extract the maximum nutrition from food. This should be a good thing in a hungry world. Unfortunately, it's a hungry world with marketing departments and a heavy profit motive.

      Processing of food isn't inherently evil. People have been processing food to extract more nutrition from it for millennia. Grinding bones to make your bread (bone cakes are full of calcium and nutritious bone marrow) is just one example. Another set of great examples are demonstrated by Pellagra and Kwashiorkor which are two medical conditions. You may not have heard of Pellagra, but just think of a typical portrayal of leprosy and you won't go far wrong. Kwashiorkor you have probably seen in ads for hunger-relief charities: swollen ankles, distended belly, hair loss, loss of teeth, dermatitis. These conditions are specialized forms of malnutrition that can occur in individuals who may actually be getting enough food to survive (although they may frequently be generally malnourished as well), but are suffering from niacin or protein deficiencies. They both tend to show up among people who live essentially exclusively on corn (poor Italian peasants in the case of Pellagra, and mostly African children living on food aid for Kwashiorkor). The all-corn diet might be providing enough calories, but is deficient in some vital nutrients. As it turns out, South American natives living on the same diet weren't suffering from these same issues. The reason comes down to food processing. Traditional preparation of corn involves nixtamalizing it, which basically means boiling it in a lime (the mineral, not the fruit) solution. The resulting processed food, called nixtamal is more nutritious (technically, it has fewer calories, but it provides a wider variety of nutrients) and people using it as a staple food are less likely to develop extreme nutritional disorders.

      Going back to the downsides of processing food, there's the issue of preservation. Some processing, of course, preserves much of the nutritive value of the food for a very long time. Examples of this are salting, dehydrating and pickling. The processing does, however, often destroy some of the nutrients in the food as well and it typically involves p

  • This is the stuff the future is made off. Only thing still missing: flying cars. WTG !!
  • I'd rather have food pills that the future promised 60 years ago.

    • I'd rather have food pills that the future promised 60 years ago.

      So, skip the printer and ingest the cartridges directly.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's a paste that's squeezed through a tube with a nozzle. I better tell my neighborhood pastry chef he's using a 3 D printer. Can we PLEASE stop this overhyping of 3D printing? It's gotten to the point that "3D printing" is a meaningless phrase!

    Here's another food 3D printer! []


  • I'm not sure how Turkey bacon is made today, but it seems like it might be a 2D printing process.
    • by cusco ( 717999 )
      I think it's excreted directly from the sphincter of domesticated demons. Stuff is nothing but NASTY.
  • If food is stored air tight many of it can be stored "for ever".

    Sugar, flour, salt, oils (olive oil e.g.) even meat in a can can be stored hundrets of years.

    Heck, people dig out mammoth in siberia and eat them, those where "stored" there for 10,000 years.

    The fear of rotten food in ur modern days is barely understandable ...

  • That's what that sounds like. Would I eat that stuff if the choice was that or starve? Yes. But I wouldn't choose it. Talk about the ultimate in processed food!
  • by Guano_Jim ( 157555 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:53PM (#43787683)

    The geometry of food has an effect on how we perceive taste, so it wouldn't shock me if chefs to specialize in molecular gastronomy started experimenting with novel structures once 3d food printers become commonplace.

    A thousand quatloos to the first person to design creme bruleé shell with the texture of cotton candy, 3d printed in a popsicle form factor.

  • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @06:01PM (#43787815) Homepage Journal

    3D printers turns materials i,e, thermoplastic) into a shape. But you still need the base materials. We are far from CHON food [] syntetizers. They must have some input, and better to be nutrient complete (and not what they think is nutrient complete, but what our body effectively needs). What it will use? Insects? [], Soylent [] green ?

    Anyway, just giving shape to something that you already have don't seem so big breakthrough. Just making a smoothie with them should be pretty similar.

    • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

      I'll wait for 3-D printable Colon Blow before I buy one. Although I suspect any 3D printable food would be marketable as a respectable clone of Colon Blow.

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @06:35PM (#43788209)
    Add insect powder.
  • ...while we even haven't got the 1.0 version (that is, a simple pill that you can pop in your mouth and contains all the necessary nutrients). But it will fail for the same reasons:
    • Food is more than just a list of nutrients. It is something most of us enjoy, for its taste, its texture, smell, color, etc. etc.
    • It would be very difficult to reproduce the texture of say, a cake, a steak or scrambled eggs. The process by which the food is produced is just as important.
    • How are they going to serve warm dishes?
  • We live in interesting times.
  • Since when does NASA have 125 grand to toss around, all we ever hear about is how they are being strangled by budgets, but apparently have enough to give away an eighth million dollars on a sketchup drawing and melted chocolate.

    Which BTW people IS NOT the first of its kind, we have seen chocolate 3d printers as early as 2011 []

  • They will have to find a trick to make vitamin C not degraded after 30 years.

    Reminder: humans cannot live without many micronutriments, and most of them are fragile.

  • by Jewfro_Macabbi ( 1000217 ) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @01:19AM (#43790903)
    It should be: Tea, Earl Grey, hot.

I've got a bad feeling about this.