Mar. 19, 2015 | By Alec

Could 2015 be the year of 3D printed food? You might almost start to believe it, considering the many promising projects and the supposedly tasty initial results. This year should be the year of the commercial Foodini, while the Taiwan 3D printer manufacturer XYZPrinting also unveiled its 3D food printer in early January. Thanks to a few other results, you might almost start believing in the coming of this holy grail of 3D printing.

Student Daniel Peng Zhuo shows us that this technology is at least definitely not an impossibility, as he has just built a prototype 3D food printer of his own as part of a course at the National University of Singapore (NUS). While still something of a novice of 3D printing technology, he has already achieved some remarkable results. "Honestly, I got to know about 3D printing 3 years ago by taking quite a number of courses about Rapid Prototyping. From then onwards, I started to try using a 3D printer to help all my design projects and I can say I truly benefited a lot from it," Daniel explained to "I came to understand the great potentials of this technology. That is why I chose to work on 3D printing technology since I actually have a strong belief in it."

Daniel Peng Zhuo and his 3D food printer

Becoming part of a group of students from NUS working with 3D printing technology, they challenged themselves to build a machine capable of the upcoming star of 3D technology: food printing. "There are a few reasons why we chose food application, but the major reason should be the advantages in mass customisation brought by 3D printing technology that can benefit the personalised food processing industry. Also, the customisation in nutrition to improve the health and well-being is important to us. Food can be something that people are personalising every day," Daniel explains.

Daniel's printer in action with cookie dough.

The 3D printer they came up with essential operates on the principles of XYZ FDM 3D printers, but for now it is still in a research and development stage. "Basically, it starts with food modelling, preparation materials, printing, and baking. It is actually a cookie printer although we managed to print mashed potato, chocolate cream and other foods. Currently, the parameters for the cookie dough have been scientifically optimised," Daniel reveals.

Furthermore, flour-based products do still need to be manually removed and baked in an oven. "We are trying to come up with some on-site heating technologies but it is challenging and we are still working on that."

Electronically, however, it is simply an FDM 3D printer that needs a laptop for UI control. "It takes 3 to 4 minutes to get a palm-sized cookie done with a few layers. So far we’ve managed to stack up to 11 or 12 layers without the entire cookie collapsing," Daniel told us. Currently, they are also limited to a printhead nozzle of 1.5 mm and a build space of 15 x 15 cm, which isn’t bad for a food printer.

It is, however, still a prototype machine in every sense of the word. But Daniel and his team are currently not looking to commercialize their machine. "I am actually waiting. The demand for food printing and food customisation through machines is not really big. Customers' desirability is still relative weak," he says. This is rather remarkable, considering the waves of optimism that ripple through the 3D printing community when the potential of food printing is discussed. After all, its potential market consists of every kitchen with a microwave, and not just the garages of tinkerers and hobbyists.

But while many other start-ups are already banking all their money on food printing success, Daniel is more cautious and prefers to wait and see how others are doing and how the mainstream market responds. "A few food printers are coming out soon around the world this year. Let us see how good their sales will be. Anyway, a good product should really solve some problems. It cannot be something fanciful and people just buy it out of curiosity," he sensibly tells us.

But one thing is certain, and that is that we haven’t yet seen the last of Daniel Peng Zhuo in the 3D printing world. As he told, "My dream is to promote this technology and let more and more people know about it and really really benefit from it. I still believe it can change our life."



Posted in 3D Printers


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Janet Lee wrote at 10/5/2016 4:59:42 AM:

Hi, I will like to understand more on the 3D printing on food products. Any contact of the printing machine that I can contact with? You may contact me through my email Await for your reply back soon. Thanks!

Fy wrote at 3/20/2015 2:12:15 PM:

Good job!

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