3D printing food isn’t the pipe dream it once was. Using special food printers we can print just like with regular 3D printers, swapping plastic filaments for fully edible ingredients to create food in safely digestible 3D structures.
Sweets and chocolates were among the first foods to be 3D printed, but in the past decade the technology has grown to include basic pizzas, various sauces, pasta, and even meat and sushi by extruding just like a 3D printer and being manipulated with robotic arms when necessary.
Here we’re going to look at some of the most mouthwatering 3D printed food projects and products today that are changing how we experience food, some of which you can even check out firsthand!
- The Coolest 3D Printed Food Examples
- Food Ink
- 3D Printed Pizza for Space
- Biometric 3D Printed Sushi
- Novameat – Cruelty Free Meat
- Redefine Meat – Perfectly Replicated Meat Without Compromise
- Mooji Meats – 3D Printed Steaks
- Upprinting Food – Recycled 3D Printed Biscuits Fighting Against Food Waste
- The Sugar Lab: 3D Printed Sweet Treats
- BluRhapsody – 3D Printed Pasta
- 3D Printed Cheesecake – The Columbia University Dessert
- Advantages of 3D Printing Food
- Limitations of 3D Food Printing
The Coolest 3D Printed Food Examples
- Price: Varies
- Learn More: Food Ink
Food Ink brought 3D printed food via a pop-up in the London in 2016. They served nine small courses of traditional food made entirely with 3D printing, and is known as the first ever 3D printed restaurant.
Remarkably, the entire establishment was 3D printed, from its food to its furniture and décor. Food Ink eventually expanded to Barcelona with planned launches all over the world,
Inviting their customers to have a taste of tomorrow with British fish and chips and ice cream, Food Ink successfully demonstrated the potential of artistic 3D printed food as a future luxury dining experience.
3D Printed Pizza for Space
- Price: $8 – $15 (Pizzas based on toppings)
- Learn More: Beehex
Nasa-funded 3D printing company Beehex developed the first feasible technology to 3D print pizzas complete with dough and tomato sauce as an alternative to conventional astronaut food.
This layered assembly involved depositing dough, sauce, and cheese in sequence with a printer before conventional cooking. Beehex continued to successfully demonstrated the viability of 3D printed pizza even after ceasing collaboration with NASA in 2017.
They have since garnered considerable interest and raising $1 million to market their pizza printers, capable of crafting a 12-inch pizza in less than five minutes.
The company has since shifted focus to 3D printing cakes and cookies, taking advantage of the potential benefits like printing custom designs for sports events or promotional activities. In 2021, they announced their development of custom 3D printed nutrition bars to promote healthy snacking.
Biometric 3D Printed Sushi
- Price: Not Available
- Learn More: Open Meals
The Sushi Singularity restaurant by Open Meals was the first commercial plan for 3D printed sushi, offering 3D printed food personalized to each customer based on pre-provided biological samples.
By using their own food printer, they begin with simple pixel structures that gradually increases in precision until you have a bespoke 3D printed meal catered to your tastes without even having to order.
Open-Meals aims to revolutionize food with biometric 3D printed meals with a dedicated and forward-thinking plan. They plan to implement an autonomous delivery service by 2035 and envision an AI-controlled 3D printer as a common kitchen appliance by 2040.
Their ultimate goal is to standardize space food with earthly meals by the year 2100.
Novameat – Cruelty Free Meat
- Price: N/A
- Learn More: Novameat
Novameat is a startup company that uses 3D printing to prototype 100% plant-based foods used in restaurants in the UK and Spain. Their aim is to produce ethically sound cruelty free meat products while remaining as carbon neutral as possible.
Their devotion to a completely clean process is evident in their efforts to drastically reduce the need for livestock rearing, fishing, and deforestation for farmland. This helps to minimize their environmental impact while still giving people delicious meat alternatives.
Redefine Meat – Perfectly Replicated Meat Without Compromise
- Price: Variable
- Learn More: Redefine Meat
While Novameat mostly uses 3D printing to prototype food, companies like Redefine Meat are instead using 3D printing throughout the full production process.
Redefine Meat uses 3D printing food techniques to recreate the texture, taste, look, and even smell of real meat products despite being 100% plant-based.
Through much trial and error, Redefine Meat has lived up to its promise by creating pulled pork, lamb, mince, and even beef flank among others with 3D printing.
All their meat-free 3D printed foods are comparable to eating real meat products right down to the fat and muscle texture without compromising ethicality or the environment.
While their products are only available in Israel and Europe as of 2023, with no real news of expansion as of yet. Don’t be discouraged, though, as similar company Mooji Meats is available stateside.
Mooji Meats – 3D Printed Steaks
- Price: N/A
- Learn More: Mooji Meats
Mooji Meats was founded in Maryland in 2022 and promises to use 3D printing food technology to create completely plant-based products so vegetarians and vegans can have the meat-eater experience without sacrificing their morals or neglecting nutritional needs. Unlike Redefine Meat, they focus more on full steaks than pulled meats and mince.
Similar to food tech startups Redefine Meat and Novameat, Mooji Meats uses 3D printing to recreate the look, texture, and taste of real steaks while only using vegetarian- and vegan-safe ingredients.
Upprinting Food – Recycled 3D Printed Biscuits Fighting Against Food Waste
- Price: N/A
- Learn More: Digital Food Lab (Official website under construction)
Dutch firm Upprinting Food, founded by industrial design and food technology graduate Elzelinde Van Doleweerd, is combating food waste by recycling it into 3D printed biscuits.
This involves collecting food waste like bread and vegetables and puréeing it to create an edible filament for 3D printing. The firm then prints and bakes intricate designs into long-lasting, crunchy biscuits.
Since its inception in 2018, Upprinting both produces its own products while also offering design services to chefs and trained restaurants to use 3D printers to repurpose their own food waste.
The Sugar Lab: 3D Printed Sweet Treats
- Price: $17 – $50+ (Quotes available via e-mail)
- Learn More: Sugar Lab
Sugar Labs creates premium, 3D-printed sugar treats. Founded in LA in 2011 by Liz and Kyle von Hasseln, the team leverages their backgrounds in architecture and technology to transform sugar into complex, geometric delicacies from cupcakes and cookies to edible wedding cake decorations.
The company began with a 3D printed edible gift for a friend, and now offers an array of complex and detailed sugar ornaments.
The process involves combining sugar, water, vegetable starch, and recipe-specific flavorings as raw material, which is then printed using a proprietary 3D printer, ‘CURRANT’, to which they attribute their intricate shapes and precise detailing.
BluRhapsody – 3D Printed Pasta
- Price: $17+
- Learn More: BluRhapsody
Barilla is an Italian food company that experiments with new technologies and ideas to develop new, modern products all the time. BluRhapsody is their spin-off company born from their research into 3D printed foods, mainly pasta.
Using 3D printing and offering their services to restaurants, BluRhapsody continues to offer delicious, custom printed pasta to the consumer for a very reasonable price.
They can customize their 3D printed pasta to suit any shape or color, using the printing process to make unique shapes and designs easily for any discerning diner.
3D Printed Cheesecake – The Columbia University Dessert
- Price: N/A
- Learn More: Columbia University
Using 3D printer materials made of sweet treats like peanut butter, Nutella, and jelly, New York’s Columbia University successfully 3D printed an edible cheesecake in March 2023.
The goal was to discover 3D printed food’s potential impact on the culinary world and its potential for widespread commercial availability. In their efforts, they made this delicious looking cheesecake entirely with 3D printing.
With this 3D printed cheesecake, they hoped to offer a lower cost printing process and address the problem of food needing to be unhealthily processed before being used as ‘filament’.
Advantages of 3D Printing Food
Can be Healthier
3D printed food is made from hydrocolloids such as algae, duckweed, and grass, and could soon become our health-boosting staple.
These potential base ingredients for 3D printed food are packed with vital vitamins and proteins which can naturally deliver essential nutrients like carbohydrates and antioxidants.
Can be Quicker and Easier
Food 3D printers save time by automating tedious tasks such as vegetable chopping and dough shaping. They also simplify complex cooking tasks, like wedding cake decoration, ensuring perfect results every time.
3D food printing eliminates cooking’s steep learning curve, significantly enhancing culinary efficiency and precision.
Printing in Space
3D printed food is already providing a solution for nourishing astronauts on long-haul space exploration missions.
The technology enables precise portion control in the printing process, eliminating waste and promoting optimal nutrition. Importantly, new recipes can be transmitted at light speed to distant spacecrafts, allowing astronauts to prepare freshly designed meals like pizza within minutes.
3D printed food materials come in cartridges instead of perishable goods, which eliminates frequent supermarket truck transportation, lowering importation needs and reducing carbon emissions and helping to maintain a clean environment.
Food 3D printers also epitomize efficiency by utilizing only necessary resources. They dispense precise amounts of food filament, inclusive of requisite vitamins and supplements, saving costs and reducing waste from potentially spoiled ingredients or oversized portions.
Limitations of 3D Food Printing
Even though a good food 3D printer can prepare a pizza in six minutes, this is arguably not much faster than what a professionally trained chef can do without needing expensive technology.
Cost of Equipment
It may be easy for researchers, universities, and NASA to claim that 3D printing food is the gourmet choice of the future, but the average mom-and-pop shop, or even some larger chains, can’t afford the additive manufacturing technology to 3D print their own food in-house.
Until this cost decreases, 3D printed food will remain a niche experience that most people won’t easily or often get to taste. Even the cheapest models cost around $800 and can only print chocolate.
If you want to 3D print your own meals at home, you’re looking at a cost of $3300 to $4500 for a basic machine, topping at $7800 for a top-quality home machine that still can’t make the kinds of food projects we’ve looked at here.
Uneven Food Printing
3D printed plastics and filaments have set melting points and ideal nozzle temperatures which don’t vary too much. However, 3D printed food material comes with various different ingredients, each with different melting and setting temperatures.
Milk chocolate will melt at under 50℃, while pastry will need around 80℃ to be malleable enough to print, so a chocolate pie for example will need very different settings switched quite quickly to make.
This makes the printing process more complicated, as the printer will need to change its settings frequently mid-print to avoid unevenly textured foods depending on its various ingredients.
3D Printed Food Isn’t Cooked
3D printed food, particularly savory foods, are normally not printed in an edible state. Food printers only create melt and shape the paste, they don’t actually prepare the meal itself.
3D printed meat and pizzas will still need cooking before they’re eaten even when made with fresh ingredients. Since cooking food takes effort, many wonder as to the point of 3D printing a pizza, for example, only to have to cook it anyway when a store-bought one would be just as easy.
Though companies are looking into ways to 3D print food and cook it simultaneously, and the rapid growth of the industry is indeed impressive, the technology to do so is still a ways off.
We also have an article on 50+ fun 3D printed cookie cutters