Mar 12, 2016 | By Tess

As we continue to see, 3D printing technologies have been responsible for some truly groundbreaking advancements in the fields of healthcare, aerospace, design, and the automotive industry. As the technology becomes more established in these various fields, 3D printing has also branched into new, less suspecting industries, where its potential benefits are becoming increasingly clear. Recently, for instance, a team of researchers from Cornell and Columbia University published a study that details how 3D printing technologies could be used to potentially change the hospitality industry.

The study, published in the online journal 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, lays out the ways in which 3D printing technologies could benefit the hospitality industry as well as the challenges the technology currently poses. In order to demonstrate the potential uses of 3D printing in the hospitality industry, the team of researchers, including Jeffrey Lipton, Jenna Witzleben, Valerie Green, Craig Ryan, and Hod Lipson, actually 3D printed a whole dinner, including tableware and cutlery, using a variety of additive manufacturing techniques.

The 3D printed table setting created for the study is overall quite impressive, as it consists of a placemat made with a Objet Connex 500 3D printer which uses Polyjet technology; cutlery 3D printed out of stainless steel and coated to be food safe; a bowl 3D printed from ceramic, and a wine glass made using FDM 3D printing coated in silicone to be food safe and watertight. The entirely 3D printed table setting was designed based on an Italian-themed dinner, which is apparent with the column-style wine glass, and the mask of venice bowl.

What the additively manufactured and stylized table setting effectively demonstrates is that 3D printing provides the advantage of customization for hospitality businesses. As stated in the report, “In the past, a consumer would have had to search through what was already available to find something mass produced or would have had to commission a custom work from an artist.” Customization through 3D printing could also be useful not only in terms of appearance but ergonomic qualities, as it could ultimately mean custom designed utensils for people with disabilities.

The study also found that being able to manufacture parts directly and in small numbers, rather than in mass using traditional molding processes, would be of great benefit to the hospitality industry. From specialized kitchen tools, to utensils designed for germaphobic people—the utensils created for their table service exemplify this as the tops do not touch the table—3D printing could allow the industry to offer a much more varied, niche selection. “Such specialized utensils may only sell a few a month, if on the market, but could be sold at a premium because of their functionality,” reads the study.

Using additive manufacturing to create such specialized utensils and other products could also allow for the hospitality industry to more easily test their products on the market. By 3D printing a small batch of the object in question, packaging, and putting them in a store to see how they sell, companies could gauge whether mass-producing the object would be worthwhile.

Of course, and what has made a difference in almost every industry 3D printing has found its way into, is the obvious benefit of being able to easily manufacture complex structures. As the study states, “Three-dimensional printing allows for more complex artistic shapes to be realized since it can manipulate the object layer by layer…If the items from the dinner were to be machined, the cost of production would be prohibitive. Three-dimensional printing has made the items affordable for high-end restaurants.”

In terms of challenges, the study found that not many food-safe 3D printing materials currently exist. Out of the materials they used, only the 3D printed fire-glazed ceramic was certified as food safe. To make the other 3D printed tablewares food safe, the team chose to coat the items in silicone, though as the coating can wear off after multiple usages, they recommend only using it for prototypes.

The next step in integrating 3D printing technologies into the hospitality industry, according to the study, would be to have 3D printers and materials certified for the creation of food safe items. As the researchers say, “Much work needs to be done to develop certified machines and bureaus to support these potential markets. It will draw on regulatory agencies, mechanical engineers, chemists, and more to ensure that the right materials, process, and standards are in place.”

As 3D printing technologies have increasingly influential applications in various industries around the world, we have little doubt that the technology will also find its way into the hospitality industry, allowing for greater customization, easier market testing, and more complex designs.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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