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.