Over a decade ago, NASA started to research the possibility of printing food. Today, astronauts can eat pizza in space. Thanks to 3D food printing, which is based on the idea of arranging layers of ingredients on top of each other, a smart machine can print the prepared ingredients in each of the capsules to the design we choose.
3D food printers are also used in terrestrial kitchens, especially in haute cuisine where aspects such as the arrangement of the food or combination of flavours is of capital importance. That is why Foodini 3D Printing food, created by the Barcelona based company Natural Machines, can be found in Michelin-starred restaurants like that of the Torres brothers, offering the most innovative dishes and impeccable arrangements.
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By modifying the texture of food for printing, we can blend ingredients that would not be found together in traditional cooking, such as a dish with a layer of broth and another of fruit. Besides encouraging creativity in the kitchen and expanding the range of flavours, 3D printing can also contribute to a healthier diet. For example, a child who refuses to eat spinach because of its unpleasant texture would probably eat it if it was more compact and shaped like a superhero, enabling the child to eat a more balanced diet.
Printing food and memories
Although three-dimensional food printing is already being used, it has not filtered down to the general public. The technique is used in prestigious restaurants and certain industries, such as the aerospace or hospital sectors. In this sense, the Althaia Foundation is using the Foodini 3D Printing food printer to make it possible for people who have problems to swallow (dysphagia) to eat better.
According to the Gastroenterology Research Foundation (Furega), 30 millions of Europeans suffer from dysphagia. One in four of people aged over 70 suffer from it, 45% of whom have had a stroke or have neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Thanks to this project, which examines how we can change the density of each food to make it edible for people who cannot swallow, dysphagia sufferers can eat solid food that was previously off bounds to them. Besides increasing the variety of nutrient intake, 3D food printing can connect these patients with their past through the sense of taste. When someone who has been unable to eat rice for 10 years can enjoy the taste of paella again, they will experience sensations and memories along with the food they eat.
In fact, “the cognitive aspect is something that this project takes very seriously. Food has associations with our memory and can connect individuals with their past, which is particularly interesting for Alzheimer’s patients”, says Bartolomeu Ayala, head of training and professional development at Althaia. He also points out that this method can enrich a patient’s diet, traditionally reduced to soft pap, and reduce the level of malnourishment by providing visually appealing food that stimulates the appetite and encourages patients to eat more.
This initiative by the Althaia Foundation will be presented on the first Healthio Day session, which will also show examples of 3D printing in the medical sector and which forms part of the programme for the trade fair INDUSTRY From Needs to Solutions. There will be other advances in 3D printing for healthcare presented on the same day, such as the printing of prosthetics, tissues and bones.
An expanding industrial event
The fourth edition of INDUSTRY From Needs to Solutions will move to the Gran Via site for the first time as it covers the whole value chain and offers solutions for smart manufacturing. Besides the exhibition area with 150 companies, the show is also hosting four congresses to underline the knowledge aspect of the event. There will be debates on the challenges and opportunities that digital transformation can offer industry, with special attention on additive manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, cyber security, automation and robotics. The fair will also host a number of B2B programmes and events to encourage networking with national and international professionals.