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Printing food

3D food printing

Campden BRI has begun a research project to assess and evaluate how 3D-printing applications could benefit the food industry[4].

3D-printing of food is a rapidly growing technology and new printers are now becoming available that can be used for various types of food materials. These are typically paste-type materials which include chocolate, vegetable and meat purees, pancake batter, cream, cakes and biscuits. The technology is capable of manufacturing product structures which cannot be achieved, or are difficult to achieve, using conventional technology. The project aims to provide an objective and independent evaluation of the capabilities and limitations of 3D-printing technology through practical trials on a wide range of food materials.

The team is working on a range of products and areas, including the potential of the technology for personalised nutrition based on the dietary requirements of different consumer groups, such as fortification with vitamin D, calcium and protein for the elderly population. Food could potentially be personalised further for specific deficiencies including anaemia, lack of essential fatty acids and dietary fibre. The project will also use an X-ray micro-CT scanner to scan simple and complex designs and to explore the scope of the possible structures and shapes that could be replicated by printing food. The modification of rheological properties to improve printing quality will also be examined.

Applying this technology to the food sector is not straightforward. There are many factors to consider, such as shelf-life, microbiological contamination, printing temperature, textures, rheology and ultimately whether different foodstuffs lend themselves to being printed. 3D-printing may have benefits for reducing process development and NPD times. Food waste could also be reduced as perishable products, which would otherwise decline in quality, could be printed on demand.  



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