By revolutionizing printing methods, 3D printers have opened the field of possibilities in many areas, including catering.

For until then, to reproduce in 3D an edible dish only existed in films or series ("Star Trek" or "Back to the Future"). But by becoming reality, this technology has paved the way for a new way of cooking, as well as a whole range of culinary possibilities until then unexplored.

It may not be very well received by all the chefs and cooks, for fear of cooking in the place of them, but it can certainly benefit restaurant owners, especially in terms of creativity and efficiency!

How does a 3D food printer work?

To understand what 3D printers can do to chef, you first need to know how they work.

In general, the 3D food printer works in the same way as traditional printing: food is deposited, like ink, one layer after another, on a support (paste, cake, plate ...)

The printer thus reproduces a pattern or design previously drawn or programmed on a touch screen by a person with selected ingredients and placed in one or more containers.

What a 3D printer can do

At present, 3D food printers are only at the beginning of their possibilities and can not yet reproduce a ready-to-eat meal, using fresh ingredients. But they are on the right track

What Existing Models Can Do:

Spread, fill or draw shapes and patterns (write a name on a cake with grout, make a frosting with patterns, spread a tomato coulis, processed cheese ...) Create 'sculptures' in 3D (sugar cubes, flower, chocolate sculpture)

3D printed Nutella

What they can not do:

They can only process foods that have already been processed into paste, puree or liquid. This limits the type of basic ingredients since not all food can be mixed or pulped. They do not mix the ingredients, do not cook the creations and do not assemble the shapes created ... All the designs, recipes and others are of course programmed via a touch screen. It is also up to the chef to pour the liquid ingredients into capsules or container.

The possibilities of food printers

Two conferences in 2015 and 2016 on the contributions of 3D food printers have identified the benefits of these technologies. The possibilities are enormous:

  • Reduction of waste and food wastage: they allow, among other things,
  • Reuse what was once considered food waste, can create edible cutlery or containers, can use all parts of food.
  • Practicality: Because these 3D printers can prepare to eat in exceptional situations where there is no access to a kitchen (eg NASA astronauts already use this technology)
  • Guaranteed balanced meals: 3D printers can be programmed to produce balanced meals, with all the necessary nutritional and caloric intakes. They can therefore potentially help in the fight against the phenomenon of junk food by quickly preparing a balanced meal at home or in canteens.
  • They could also design personalised meals and meet the individual needs and diets of each person.
  • Easy-to-eat dishes: Food printers can recreate foods (eg, an easy-to-eat carrot) or create dishes that are easier to chew, while retaining all of their properties. This could greatly benefit seniors or those with dysphagia problems. Europe is already funding a project of this type to design food better suited to the elderly.
  • Fighting hunger in the world: more efficient use of available food, use of alternative resources (in whole or in part) inedible. Creation of new generation foods, made from proteins derived from algae, insects or others, restored in edible ingredients.

The story does not yet say whether these 3D food printers will remain of the order of the gadget or if they will become a daily tool for restaurateurs, accompanying their work without ever taking their place.

Nevertheless, the possibilities they offer in terms of creativity, efficiency and personalization are unique and should be of interest to many leaders. In London, the first restaurant offering a kitchen in 3D printing opened in 2016. The dishes are prepared under the eyes of customers, the staging being part of the identity of the establishment.