Digital Cuisine, 3D Chefs and Printers

Food ink beta from the French Culinary Institute

New possibilities are cooking up when it comes to food . . . and 3D.  So move over microwave, it’s time for something geekier: the 3D food printer! 

At least two labs are developing 3D food printers, and I’m starting to salivate. 

The Fab@Home 3D Food Printer

According to the Designboom article:

“Although they are in no way limited to food, Fab@Home machines have already been used to print chocolates, cookies, and even domes of turkey meat. While previous models have typically used only one syringe, the Cornell team is now working with them in multiple, to permit the combination of diverse ingredients in precise proportions.

Currently, only liquids and gels can be used as cartridges, and the researchers have already experimented with cheese, cake batter, chocolate, and dough. Promisingly, current research that involves mixing raw foods with hydrocolloids, creating a gel, may soon expand the repertoire of foods that can be used in the machine.”

  • MIT Media Lab designers Marcelo Coelho and Amit Zoran have invented a similar concept design called “Cornucopia: Digital Gastronomy.” This has hit the interest zone for the likes of BBC, Wired and others, but I find the Gizmag article the most complete. 
MIT Media Lab's Cornucopia Digital Fabricator

Gizmag journalist Loz Blain explains how Cornucopia works:

“The printing head moves on a 3D axis, and extrudes precisely mixed and measured quantities of different ingredients from the canisters on top of the machine. Ingredients can be mixed as they come through the printing head, which is also able to precisely temperature-control the mix as it prints using a laser heating and piped cooling system.

The printed food output sits inside a temperature-controlled chamber that finishes the rest of whatever cooking or cooling needs to happen before the dish is done, and the device lets you know when it’s time to eat.

The ingredient canisters are refillable or automatically re-orderable, and provide constant feedback on stock levels or ingredients that are going out of date as well as offering smart alternatives if you’re low on something.”

My take
New trend?  Yes, and a worthy one.  Aside from molecular cooking, I haven’t been exposed to anything this exciting in cuisine-land since I exploded eggs in our family’s first microwave. 

And why not benefit from developments in CAD and 3D printers to add dimension to your mealtime?  I can imagine all kinds of job conversions from 3D designers to 3D chefs. 

Speaking of, I’d really like to have a chat with the people developing these concepts to find out what software they’re using.  Blain mentioned “3D recipe design” and “recipe files,” and isn’t this really direct modeling 3D software with work instructions? 

A 3D Chef will need to sculpture her ideas, not code them, so we’ve got to get them using something like 3DVIA Shape to concote their recipes.  😉 

What do you think about this?  Do you know of any other examples in the cooker?