• Blaze Horn

How 3D printed food could combat food waste

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

You may have already heard about 3D printing, but did you know that it is being applied to the food industry. Indeed, 3D printed food could combat food waste.

Three-dimensional food printing (3DFP) is an innovative solution for many food-related issues. From combating food waste to providing consumers with personalised meals adapted to their dietary needs, the potential of this idea looks to be limitless!

So, how does it work?

Also referred to as additive manufacturing, 3DFP is an automated manufacturing process that produces food products by either: depositing layers of raw materials on top of one another, or, by binding raw materials to create physical 3D structures. Pretty cool, right?

So far, 3DFP has mainly used food items like freeze-dried vegetable powders as food ink. But the potential for many other foods to be used is being explored by food scientists and engineers.

Fused deposition modelling (FDM) is considered to be the best approach for 3D food printing. The layout for FDM consists of a printhead that can move up-and-down and left-to-right above a build platform. Design software tells the 3D printer where to print, how much, and which food ink to use.

3DFP can either be a hot extrusion (HE) process, i.e. the food doesn't need to be cooked once it is printed, or a cold extrusion (CE), which requires cooking. It all depends on what the purpose of the 3DFP is...

Check out this video to see one of the ways 3DFP could contribute to a greener future by reducing meat consumption...

This video highlights some of the current efforts being made by small businesses to tackle food waste in an innovative way!

It's believed that 3DFP will have an annual growth rate of roughly 26% and, by 2024, could be worth up to $40 billion! This shows the potential of the industry, and how important printed food could be to our daily lives.

Of course, there are still some drawbacks, such as the current limited use of ingredients, and the general public's perception of processed foods. But let's be open-minded... it's important to remember that the acceptance of innovative ideas, like 3DFP, always takes time.

Food for thought (literally)...

If you've checked out our other blog posts, you'll see we're interested in how food systems can be adapted to become more sustainable.

We've also explored the role of edible insects in feeding a growing population, sustainably.

We know that not everyone will be convinced by the idea of eating a bag of salted crickets for a quick snack... BUT, if these unique protein sources are combined with 3DFP techniques, and transformed into more fun and (dare-we-say) appealing forms, maybe even the most unsure of us could be convinced. We hope so, at least!

We're really excited to watch how this industry develops and see how printed food contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals! And who knows... maybe our app will also include food made by 3DFP's in the future!

Let us know if you'd try printed food in the comments below.

Our Sources:

1. Alexander, D. 2020. 3D printing will change the way you eat in 2020 and beyond. Accessed June 7, 2021.

2. Kewuyemi, Y.O., Hema Kesa, H., and Adebo, O.A. 2021. Trends in functional food development with three-dimensional (3D) food printing technology: prospects for value-added traditionally processed food products. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

3. Pant, A., Yilin Lee, A., Karyappa, R., Pau Lee, C., An, J., Hashimoto, M., Tan, U.X., Wong, G., Chua, C.K., and Zhang, Y. 2021. 3D food printing of fresh vegetables using food hydrocolloids for dysphagic patients. Food Hydrocolloids 114.