3D printing, a relatively new technology for producing novel foods, has caught the attention of a wide range of food professionals from culinary specialists to military feeding programs. At an IFTNEXT session on Tuesday afternoon on “Advances in 3D Printing: Explore the 3D Printer,” several presenters discussed the latest research in the 3D printing of food.
Daryl Holliday with Univ. of Holy Cross described a 3D printing application for ground beef patties and other meat products. The challenges of the technology are its slow speed but the benefits include unique shapes and product customization. The beef patties consisted of 80/20 ground beef, which was mixed to a consistency of paté. The nozzle of the 3D printer was enlarged to handle the product, which was deposited directly onto a hot griddle in a spiral pattern. The cooking process eliminated the hole in the middle of the patty and the 7.8 mm-thick finished product showed excellent bonding and the bite, chew, and mouthfeel of a traditional hamburger. The 3D printing system is suitable for other food matrices, such as ground turkey and a vegetarian patty.
Michael Okamoto with U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research discussed the military’s interest in 3D food printing. According to Okamoto, 3D printing of foods offers personalized nutrition that can be tailored to individual real-time needs, such food allergens. It can be customized to various field operations, and the on-demand feeding aspect of 3D printing reduces the logistics burden of carrying packaged MREs and food and packaging waste.
In a sensory test comparing a chocolate bar produced by 3D printing and conventional molding, the 3D-printed product received good scores for texture, appearance, odor, and flavor. Research indicates that some soldiers may be willing to consume 3D-printed foods.
Okamoto concluded that 3D-printed foods is technically challenging and requires a multi-disciplinary effort and that further research is necessary to determine soldiers’ acceptance of the new foods.
Danilo Spiga with FabLab Sardegna Ricerche talked about a research product examining the characteristics of various food matrices for use in 3D printers. The project goals were to enhance the culinary peculiarity of products with innovative 3D designs and determine which raw materials work best with the technology. The researchers tested almond paste, ice cream, gorgonzola cheese, and shortbread cookie dough in various designs to understand the integrity of the structures. The second phase of the research project focused on pasta.
According to Spiga, 3D food printing enables fast prototyping of new food concepts and is especially appealing to chefs at high-end restaurants. The “durum wheat semolina” matrices used to print samples of pasta delivered a finished product with excellent technological properties and quality comparable to the product obtained by the wire drawing process.
Future work will include sensory testing and texture profile analysis, additional food matrices, improving the technology of 3D printing with respect to heat/cold, non-stick, extrusion, etc., and scaling up for industrial production volume, concluded Spiga.