RESEARCHERS have been using 3D food printing technology to create foods of various ingredients and textures with the vision of designing vending machines that dispense customised snacks on demand.
A team from the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) has conducted initial trials using starch and cellulose-based materials for 3D food prototypes. 3D printing can build the structure layer-by-layer to achieve the desired flavour, texture and consistency for each product.
The technology, adapted from automotive and medical 3D printing, has already been used in the chocolate and confectionery industry to print snack bars that combine textures and features such as crispy coatings to soft centres.
The team is now experimenting with the printing technique to create snacks using healthier ingredients, and is testing the printability of both plant (oat and faba bean) and dairy (whey) protein concentrations.
The €690,000 (US$793,000) project, in collaboration with Aalto University and partly funded by Finnish innovation funding agency Tekes, aims to refine the technique to achieve the same multi-textural options for the structures in an economically feasible and sustainable way.
While the next stage will be to continue to research new ingredient mixes, innovations in hardware and technologies will be needed.
'A great deal of work is needed in order to proceed to industrial-scale production. Equipment needs to be developed in addition to materials. Such equipment could be developed for domestic 3D food printing as well as vending machines,' said Nesli Sözer, principal food scientist at VTT.
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