3D opportunity serves it up
Additive manufacturing and food
Additively manufactured food may be more of a novelty than an industry game-changer—for now. Yet advances in technology and innovations in its application could mean that science fiction may become fact sooner than expected.
In this article, we seek to inform readers about the current state and future trends related to AM and food. We will also examine some of the challenges facing companies that are looking to leverage AM technologies in food.
For some 30 years, AM—a manufacturing technique that builds objects layer by layer—has focused on using polymers (for example, plastics) and, more recently, metals. In the past few years, experimental materials, including edible ingredients, have emerged as well. Accompanying that expansion, AM is coming to encompass a wider set of applications, ranging from aerospace cooling ducts to 3D-printed pizzas.
True, at this point, edible AM printing is more niche or novelty than an industry game-changer: Restaurant chains and packaged-food giants seem unlikely to convert entire production lines to printing most of what customers eat and buy anytime soon. But AM using edible materials allows food makers to explore the customization of their otherwise mass-produced and, in many cases, commoditized products.