By Jacopo prisco
Dublin (CNN) – This is further proof that you can now 3D print anything: a company called Natural Machines has introduced a 3D printer for food.
“Foodini”, as it is called, does not differ much from a traditional 3D printer, but instead of printing with plastics, it uses edible ingredients obtained from stainless steel capsules: “It is the same technology”, says Lynette Kucsma , co-founder of Natural Machines, “but with plastics there is only one melting point, while with food there are different temperatures, consistencies and textures. Also, gravity works a bit against us, as food doesn’t hold its shape as well as plastic. ‘
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At the Web Summit technology conference in Dublin, the Barcelona-based startup has the machine on display and claims it is the only one of its kind capable of printing a wide range of dishes, sweet and savory.
“At its core, this is a mini-food manufacturing plant scaled down to the size of an oven,” Kucsma said, noting that at least in the initial stage, the printer will primarily target professional kitchen users. They will then release a consumer version, at a retail price of roughly $ 1,000.
In principle, the Foodini printer seems to be the ultimate laziness assist: press a button and print your ravioli. But Natural Machines is quick to point out that the printer is designed to take care of only the difficult and time-consuming parts of food preparation, and that they are also the ones that discourage people from cooking at home. They also claim that it promotes healthy food consumption by requiring fresh ingredients before printing.
However, the company is working with major food manufacturers to create prepackaged plastic capsules that can be fed into the machine to prepare the food. They assure that these capsules will not have preservatives and that their shelf life will be limited to five days.
The printing process is slow, but it is faster than normal 3D prints. Aside from creating complex designs, such as highly detailed decorations for cakes or foods arranged in unusual shapes, the Foodini printer could be useful for recipes that require precision and dexterity, such as homemade pizza or filled pasta.
Currently, the appliance only prints food. These should then be cooked as usual. However, a future model will also cook the preparation and the product will be ready to eat.
The idea is also accompanied by a social element. “There’s a touch screen up front that connects to a recipe site in the cloud, so it’s a kitchen appliance connected to the Internet of Things,” Kucsma said. Users will also be able to control the device remotely using a smartphone, and share recipes with the community.
This will happen as long as people don’t reject the idea of eating printed food. “We have done tests and everyone has liked the food,” explains Kucsma. Take, for example, the microwave oven: in the 1970s, people were a little scared of it. They thought that food could be poisoned by radiation or something, but if you look 30 years later, there is a microwave in every home. Here we have real food, with fresh ingredients; we simply prepare it using a new technology. ‘
The company is completing a funding round and plans to start mass manufacturing in the second half of next year.