Research in 3D food printing

The FabLab Maastricht has been researching 3D food printing since 2013. Floris Hoff learned about 3D food printing during an internship at TNO, where he helped develop the 3D printer for chocolate. An old 3D milling machine was adapted with expensive print head that could print the chocolate at the exact temperature needed. This was the first time that somebody managed to 3D print real chocolate. The printer, however, was too expensive,  awkward, used liquid nitrogen (expensive, unwieldy and dangerous) and didn’t work very well (33% success rate).

Since then, a lot of time has been spent doing research online and experimenting ourselves. Plans arose to make a specialized center for 3D food printing and market research was carried out by Fontys Venlo. The conclusions from that research was that it was still too early to build such a center.

The department of supply chain management at Maastricht University carried out a lot of market research towards 3D printing, specifically 3D food printing. Conclusions from that were that there was a lot of enthusiasm from consumers and high-end restaurants, specifically towards chocolate.

This resulted in a mini-symposium on the 17th of June 2014, where various speakers presented their opinions and ideas about food printing. That’s how we learned from prof. Luc de Witte that 8% of the clients in health institutions, and 8% of the patients in hospitals, have such issues swallowing that they eat too little or eat wrong. This results in 275 million euros wasted healthcare costs. This was the reason to start researching 3D printed smooth food. In 2015 we hope to carry out the first trials with 2 health care institutions in Venlo.

Through an invitation to the 3D Printshow in London, the process was accelerated. Together with a chef from Belgium we carried out the first real food experiments.

We experimented with Michelin chef Wouter van Laarhoven and food designer Marijn Roovers. Together with them we were able to put together a nice show at the Louvre, during the 3D Printshow in Paris. A full day of media attention.

We also collaborated with Michelin chef Bart Aussems from Tout a Fait in Maastricht, and we gave a small demo at the BBB conference in Maastricht.

In December of 2014, we gave a demo during the opening of the 3D Gastronomy Lab in Liege, Belgium.

On the 3rd of December 2014 we gave a presentation and demo at the AgroFood & Technology Conference in Wageningen.

The 4th of February 2015 supermarket Albert Heijn (nr 1 in the Netherlands) opened a XL experience store where a pilot for personalised cakes has been done with our multimaterial 3D printer with chocolate. Unofrtunately the bakery was to hot (melting temperature of good chocolate is 26 degrees) so we had to switch to Nutella. Also the time for developing special cakes was to short so we had to print on edible paper. Not nice when you have everything prepared to do it on a high level but next time will be better.

Because 3D food printing is still slow we are working on a special 3D food printer with 3 print heads and a moving belt for using severa plates together. Our aim is to print 25 times faster as we can now.

Another project is also starting for the 3D printing of food in business class for a large airline.

And our multimaterial 3D printer that can print food and real chocolate has just been released on Kickstarter.

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