Earl Grey Tea, Hot: 3D Printing and Food

I’ve never been quite clear on why a guy named Jean-Luc Picard, presumably a Frenchman, is such a quintessential Englishman. I suspect the character’s creators either neglected their research or set out to smash some stereotypes (or both). Fortunately, said creators were a bit more successful at popularizing the replicator than at giving their captain a convincing name, and lately the replicator has become a more realistic possibility than a distant scientific fantasy. 3D printing inspired the PancakeBot  and fancy shmancy sugar thingies (for the Earl Grey, naturally), but recent developments have yielded a few legitimate food printers. They’re eerily reminiscent of the replicator.

A character by name of Anjan Contractor has recently printed himself a pizza . The pizza must be baked after it is printed, but it’s a pizza nonetheless, and Contractor’s prototype has also been successful in printing chocolate. As an added bonus, NASA endorsed his project. Another printer, the Foodini, has created everything from frosting to pasta. Both machines work like a 3D printer insofar as they layer raw materials on a build surface according to a pattern, but what makes these two interesting is their potential for variety. For example, the PancakeBot can only make artistic pancakes, but the Foodini can build whatever can be made from paste from cartridges. Foodini’s creators plan to encourage healthy eating by also selling cartridges of fresh food to use in the machine, but these are still in the conceptual stage so options are limited. More interesting is Contractor’s plan, which would have cartridges with a much longer shelf life (Foodini’s is supposed to be about five days) that contain nutritional building blocks like sugars and proteins.

So far, 3D food printers are largely limited to whatever can be made from food goop. Contractor’s pizza must still be baked separately and the Foodini can’t boil its ravioli, but they’re making progress. Foodini expects to release a model with cooking capabilities soon. In the meantime, we’ll all have to practice our British accents in preparation for the day we can print hot Earl Grey tea.

 
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