To eat, at the press of a button*

Eating our way through technology

eating

Agriculture has come a long way in the past century. We produce more food than ever before — but our current model is unsustainable, and as the world’s population rapidly approaches 8 billion, modern food production methods will need a radical transformation to keep up.

Let’s face it: precision matters. We already are obsessed with perfection and the instagrammable food trend. Food is no longer a way to feed yourself, it has become a lifestyle. Many millennials call themselves “foodies”. They’ll stand in line for the perfect pastry, coffee or sandwich.

During the last decades, technology has influenced many aspects of our lives, and the way we live it. And like it or not, Soon food will also be one of them.

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that creates a physical object from a digital design. There are different 3D printing technologies and materials you can print with, but all are based on the same principle: a digital model is turned into a solid three-dimensional physical object by adding material layer by layer. And what if the material to be printed, is food?

3D printing our food, not only will allow us to assemble a flawless plate for the perfect photo, but will also change what we eat. It offers new possibilities such as intricate designs, automated cooking, mass manufacturing, and personalized meals.

There are potential advantages to producing food in a printer. These advantages should become more important as printing technology improves and the speed of printing increases.

Since 3D printers follow digital instructions as they print, they may one day be able to make food containing the correct percentage of nutrients required for a particular gender, life stage, lifestyle, or medical condition. The quantity of different vitamins and minerals and the amount of protein, carbohydrate, or omega-3 fatty acids could be controlled.

Considering the benefits in the near future, NASA has partnered with companies to create a more capable type of printer. The printer will be able to combine powdered material with a liquid to make a wide variety of foods. NASA’s goal is to increase the nutrition, stability, and safety of food given to astronauts while they’re in space. This will be especially important during deep space missions.

As the appearance of a 3D printed food depends on the model that was created to instruct the printer, a wide variety of shapes, textures, and decorations can be produced. Printed foods may resemble those of traditional foods, such as a pizza, or they may have an unusual or even unique appearance. Assuming the 3D models have already been created, foods with intricate designs or fancy plate presentation may be created more easily by a printer than by hand.

With 3D food printing, once you start thinking about the future, it’s not just about the pretty designs and the automation aspect — it’s about the customization and nutritional aspects.

Everything becomes possible. All the manifold possibilities that 3D printing brought to the word of architecture, construction and design, can now be translated to the world of culinary.

* This article was originally published in the book “Eating – Alternative designs for restaurants” by Non Architecture Competitions [2018]

Image: Cover of the book “Eating – Alternative designs for restaurants”

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