Few days ago I published a blog about 3D printers and their impacts to recycling and waste management. But innovation comes with speeds that are exponentially higher than we can digest, so here is one more revolutionary application of 3D printers. I am talking about a vending machine that will print your snacks as you want them, the time you need them!

3D food printing is a new emerging technology, with a great deal of active research ongoing. According the researchers involved in similar programs, 3D food printing offers a range of potential benefits. It can be healthy and good for the environment because it can help to convert alternative ingredients such as proteins from algae, beet leaves, or insects into tasty products. It also opens the door to food customization and therefore tune up with individual needs and preferences.

I imagine that sooner or later, 3D food printers will be able to manage food leftovers as well, at least some of them. Thus, we have to deal with a new, unimaginable up to now, solution for managing food waste, for food waste prevention, with a great potential: it can be a household solution!

You can have an idea of several on-going projects by looking the 3D Food Printing website. Personally, I loved the idea of fresh 3D printed food for airline passengers. You can see also this video for the first commercial 3D food printer.

Recently, the Finnish VTT Technical Research Centre is investing in the development of high-tech vending machines that can provide food through 3D printing! The company aims to develop advanced food manufacturing technologies by combining expertise in food, material science and 3D printing technology. Healthy snacks with great textures are in increasing demand among consumers. Researchers have the long-term vision of developing high-tech vending machines that provide customised purchases.

“Such equipment could be developed for domestic 3D food printing as well as vending machines,” writes Nesli Sözer, Principal Scientist at VTT. In trials VTT has experimented with “cellulose-based materials” (plants) but has also experimented with printing protein concentrates of oat, faba bean and dairy (whey protein).

The same company runs another project in collaboration with the Aalto University. This project targets at 3D printing of multi-textural food structures in a techno-economically feasible and sustainable way. A specific aim of the partners is to create new ingredient mixes with suitable flow properties for 3D processing. The project will develop globally competitive expertise in 3D food printing technologies with subsequent technology innovations to be utilized by Finnish industries from various sectors such as ingredient, food processing, equipment manufacturing, software and online services and retail.

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