3D food printing is coming to our kitchens

“3D Food Valley” is emerging in Brittany, France’s leading food and drink region.
Published in the dossier of April 2018

Heading the charge is the Centre Culinaire Contemporain, a laboratory dedicated to the food of tomorrow open to researchers, chefs and gastronomes. It is here that 3D culinary printing is taking shape. Crepes in the shape of the Eiffel Tower have become a classic.

“We can create culinary items made of chocolate or sugar,” states co-founder Freddy Thiburce. “Our machines — the byFlow and PancakeBot — work with powder, liquid and even purée.”

Centre Culinaire Contemporain*

Created in Rennes in 2013 and given a government-approved label, it is a forerunner of the living lab model tailored to the food sector. A shared innovation platform, the Center brings together a consortium of companies from the food sector along with public players, based on a collaborative, international and use-focused approach.

*Contemporary Culinary Center

But the Center wants to go even further. With the Brittany region, nine industrialists and three academic partners, it has been running the Manger 4D program since 2016. Drawing on applied research on 3D food printing and the many opportunities for innovation that it offers, disciplines can be integrated and endless combinations identified: human and social sciences, food chemistry, new technologies and the Internet of Things. A clever cocktail that paves the way for three major avenues of exploration. Customized cuisine, for the elderly or the allergic, would make it possible to adapt dishes to specific dietary requirements. Fast home cooking, for consumers with no interest in the culinary arts, would make it easier to prepare everyday meals. And last but not least, culinary design and industrial prototyping for the food and beverage industries.

“The microwave and food processor are appliances that used to be seen as gadgets and were accepted in the end. We are convinced of 3D food printing’s potential for use in the factory, restaurant or home.”

> How does 3D food printing work?

The process is based on three elements:

  • the software element, with 3D modeling files, sometimes known as computer-aided design (CAD);
  • the physical element, the machine itself, which can use different 3D printing techniques (depositing successive, more or less dense layers of a food product);
  • •the material used, in other words the food to be printed.

> The three most common uses

  • Fun, playful and design-forward cuisine: decorating dishes, cakes, candies, etc.; writing in specific fonts; complex-shaped objects (sugar decorations, chocolate in paste form, foams, purées, chewing gum, etc.).
  • Mass catering for seniors: cuisine and food with tailored textures, improvement in the nutritional value of meals.
  • Experimentation by NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s laboratories: food in space and under extreme conditions.

> An added ecological argument

  • 3D food printing offers the possibility of reducing food wastage and waste.