Dec 6, 2017 | By Julia

Think a 3D printed casserole is more science fiction than reality? Think again. As additively manufactured food looms ever present, one Danish university is keen to show that that 3D printed meals can be just as healthy – and at least as tasty – as regular food. The Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen has launched a new research study that uses 3D printing technology to tailor food to hospital patients’ individual needs. That could mean anything from smoother textures for patients who have difficulty swallowing, to boosted vitamins for those lacking adequate nutrition.

Whereas previous studies have focused more on demonstrating the feasibility of 3D printed food – in other words, that 3D printed food is in fact possible, and yes, it’s edible – the Copenhagen initiative sets itself apart with a primary emphasis on customization. Meals made through the research project must have the correct nutrition and energy content according to the individual patient’s needs, and will also be adjusted to the patient’s desires for taste and consistency. Imagine an apple that’s easy to bite into, or a piece of toast that already tastes like butter - theoretically it’s all possible, say the brains behind the new study.

"The essence is that 3D printing technology can be used to produce tailor-made meals. It is important because each patient needs a specific diet, both in terms of his [or her] disease and nutritional requirements, and in the forefront of taste preferences," says Lilia Ahrné, a professor in dairy processing technology at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food Science.

Together with Ahrné, researchers from the University’s departments of Design and Consumer Behaviour, Microbiology and Fermentation, and Ingredient and Dairy Technology have all played a pivotal role in developing and executing the study. Soon, the concept will be tested at the Aalborg University Hospital, where project partners expect 3D printed meals will supplement medical treatment with nutrition tailored to individual patients’ needs.

Ahrné explains that each partner respectively contributes to the project with knowledge of sensory science (including taste and texture), knowledge of microbiology in relation to food safety, and knowledge of dairy processing technology. The University of Copenhagen professor believes that dairy products are particularly relevant ingredients here. Ice cream, for instance, is easy to eat and can be easily produced with a high nutritional value, Ahrné notes, making it a promising option for many hospital patients.

"My personal role is understanding how dairy ingredients behave and can be controlled when used in a 3D printer,” Ahrné says. “The printer is equipped with a variety of cartridges that contain the various food ingredients that should be printed as a meal. This is a new form of food processing which we still do not know so much about,” she adds. Researchers will look at the specific effects of the printing process on the ingredients, and how it impacts aspects such as taste and texture.

Ahrné expects the project to be the start of a new era of 3D printed food. “The potential for 3D-printed foods is very high, as we already see a large focus on food adapted to the individual – a focus that will grow in the future."

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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