3D Printed Food Is Being Cooked Up Right Now
3D printing is a technology that is getting a lot of press recently, mainly because with the advances in technology, it moved from being a niche idea to something that can be done mainstream. There are commercial 3D printers available out there to create all sort of small objects from plastic type materials, all the way to large industrial printers that can create large models. All you need is a computer model, and your printer can make a real world version. However, for the past two years or so, people have also investigated printing food. If you think about it, being able to store only the base ingredients and then use computer based recipes to create any food you want would be a major boom, both in reducing storage space and allowing easy experimentation.
One early model was done at MIT and called the Cornucopia. It stored basic food elements and allowed you to select a stored recipe from a user interface. Then, it would mix them and create the food for you. Then there are models that work more like traditional 3D printers, such as the one from Cornell University and showcased on CNN in 2011. So where are food printers at these days? So far, most are still left as prototypes, although there is a pretty cool burrito bot out there. The problem is that you can only do so much with broken down, processed ingredients. However, NASA is attempting to change that.
As part of a recent fund, NASA is looking for inventors to create the next generation 3D printer that would print food using basic cells, and could be expanded to print basically anything else. It currently is studying 12 proposals to make science fiction into reality. Now it's doubtful we will be eating printed food any time soon, but for astronauts, this could be a major breakthrough.