3D printed food by TNO Netherlands
3D printed food by TNO Netherlands

NASA has just recently granted Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC) US$125,000 to develop a functioning 3D food printer. The 3D printer will be customized to produce healthy, nutritious food for astronauts.

“I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently,” says Anjan Contractor, a Senior Mechanical Engineer at Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC) in Austin, TX.. “So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”

Anjan Contractor is a Professional Mechanical Engineer, with 13 years of experience. Anjan Contractor believes that every future kitchen will have a 3D printer and users will be able to customize their own food, “customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store.”

According to Contractor food waste will be eliminated with 3D food printers and the powder that is used by the printer would have a shelf life of up to 30 years. The 3D food printer would have cartridges filled with powder that could be replenished at a local store.

NASA will be using 3D food printers for long future space-orientated mission’s. The printers could even be used on a future Mars mission that NASA has lined up.

“Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life,” says Contractor. “The way we are working on it is, all the carbs, proteins and macro and micro nutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out, and in that form it will last maybe 30 years.”

At the moment Anjan Contractor has kept his 3D printer and software open source, to allow for users to create their own distinctive recipes. Contractor hopes that in the future some people will be able to turn 3D printed food into a business.

So what is the favourite food choice for Contractors 3D food printer? Apparently it is Pizza according to Contractor. This is “Because it can be printed in distinct layers, so it only requires the print head to extrude one substance at a time.”

Systems and Materials Research Corporation was founded in 1998, and is a Texas-based small business that engineers innovative solutions to difficult challenges facing a wide range of customers. SMRC has multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers. SMRC develops, integrates, and transitions cutting-edge technologies through partnership’s with different companies around the world.

Here is a video of a 3D printer making dessert.