3D printers are in the kitchen

3D printing of food is developing all over the world: scientific or technological articles follow one another in an uninterrupted flow, start-ups are created to sell equipment and more and more chefs are equipping themselves in the kitchen or even and all in the dining room so your customers can see how their dishes are prepared. For example, since 2018 Dutch chef Jan Smink has been serving printed sausages in the form of honeycombs. Spanish chocolate makers offer their customers the opportunity to choose their own shapes, from online catalogs. And recently the possibility of cooking the layers deposited by the printers has opened up.

The idea of ​​the technique? To shape an object, instead of using a mold, it is formed layer by layer, starting from the base, depositing preparations capable of easily moving from a solid state to a liquid state, before returning to the solid state. . The shape is given, during the transition to the liquid state, by a series of back and forth of a nozzle that crosses a square surface, nozzle controlled according to a computer model of the desired preparation.

From the first machine, introduced in 1984, to 2020, 3D food printers were limited to depositing a single material, and “recipes” remained rudimentary. For example, the manufacturer’s standard recipe for a cheap machine included cornstarch, sugar, soy protein, salt, oil, and water, the resulting form had to be baked at 150 degrees for ten minutes: nothing very appealing !

Very recently, systems have become more complex, with several nozzles controlled simultaneously, and the addition of lasers to cure deposited systems during deposition. Jonathan Blutinger and colleagues at Columbia University in New York compared a blue laser, a near-infrared laser, and a medium-infrared laser: with ground chicken, the infrared turns brown. than blue, while the average infrared laser can brown and bake through packages, all with less waste than in the oven.

There remains the double question of consistency and taste, which were absent in the previous recipe, and the number of tests already performed. The industrialists are interested in whole military rations, “personalized” foods, meat products of more interesting consistencies than minced steaks. They use meat powder or vegetable juices added with xanthan gum, deposited by 3D printers. How to give more interest to what risks resemble homogeneous gels?

To give taste and color, very small amounts of coloring, savory or odorous compounds are dispersed in the deposited masses. But the challenge is above all to produce new shapes and consistencies, through controlled heterogeneous distributions of different assembled materials. The grail, for explorers, is the consistency of green apples, with their crunchiness due to 25% by volume of air distributed in small unconnected pockets. The next step will be to converge towards a standardization of software that drives 3D printers, so that the culinary community can move forward together, sharing ideas that will then be used by all.

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