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Would You Eat a Pizza That Came Out of a Printer?

November 6, 2014 in Blogs

By Allegra Kirkland, AlterNet

3D printing is revolutionizing what we think of as food.

The idea of artificially manufactured, mass-produced food can conjure up some negative associations. There are the human-flesh-packed wafers fed to the starving masses in sci-fi classic Soylent Green; the schoolchildren forced to eat ground-up versions of each other in Pink Floyd’s The Wall; Willy Wonka’s meal-in-one stick of gum that turns Violet Beauregarde into a giant blueberry. But outside of the realm of fiction, scientists have been working on developing nutrition-packed, artificially preserved meal substitutes for decades. New technology like 3D printing is revolutionizing how these synthetic foods can be made.

Scientists at the U.S. Army’s Natick research center are spearheading an effort to create 3D-printed foods for soldiers in the field, as NPR reported this week. Because soldiers have to carry heavy gear on their backs and are on the move for hours at a time, they need lightweight, nutritious meals to bring with them. But the Natick team’s experiments go far beyond the shrink-wrapped MREs (meals ready to eat) that soldiers currently rely on for sustenance. In their vision, soldiers would be strapped with sensors that could measure potassium and cholesterol levels in real time. Lauren Oleksyk, the food technologist leading the team, elaborated:

“We envision to have a 3D printer that is interfaced with the soldier. And that sensor can deliver information to the computer software. And then they would be able to have either powdered or liquid matrices that are very nutrient dense, that they have on demand that they can take and eat immediately to fill that need.”

The Department of Defense has approved research funding, and the meals for soldiers are supposed to be ready for implementation by 2025. In the meantime, scientists are working on developing 3D foods for those working in similarly extreme conditions, like astronauts. Last year, Systems & Materials Research Corporation was awarded a $125,000 grant from NASA to create a “universal food synthesizer” for 3D-printed foods. The technology uses cartridges of carbohydrates, protein powders and oils, which could keep for up to 30 years, …read more


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