Apr. 15, 2015 | By Simon

Although there have been many who have explored what the near future of food-based 3D printing might look like, very few actual 3D printers have made it onto the market in an affordable package that is appealing to consumers like the MakerBot has done for polymer-based 3D printing.  However, efforts such as those done by 3D Systems have helped push for 3D printing in commercial kitchens - although it’s still not known what sort of a long-term impact they may have on both food presentation and food science.

Now, an heir to one of the world’s richest families is “putting his money where his mouth is” and has backed an additive manufacturing-produced synthetic meat company from New York called Modern Meadow.  

Justin Rockefeller, who is the great-great-grandson of Stand Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, feels that the “steak chips” created by Modern Meadow might be one of the next big industries as the future of food supplies continues to be one big question mark due to unpredictable weather patterns and methane gases.

"I have eaten a steak chip," Mr Rockefeller said recently.  "It tasted like a salty steak chip. It was delicious."

Modern Meadow creates the “steak chips” by growing animal tissues in a laboratory and then uses a 3D printer to form three-dimensional layers of the meat which are then turned into a potato chip-sized edibles.  

The company was co-founded by Andras Forgacs, a tissue engineer who has even spoken about the topic at a TED conference.  According to Forgacs, while the technology is currently there, it costs thousands of dollars to make a single pound (0.45kg) of edible steak chips.  However despite the current high costs associated with producing the “steak chips”, he believes that the price of production will drop dramatically when production picks up and even compares the production process to microbreweries - which themselves have exploded over the past decade.    

Currently, Modern Meadow is focusing their tissue engineering on artificial leathers in hope that consumers will be more accepting of car seats and handbags rather than edible synthetic materials that may take some getting used to - however the meat will most likely come shortly after.  

Justin Rockefeller

"Every major idea seems crazy at first,” said Rockefeller.   

“Even mobile telephones used to look like giant bricks and cost $5000 each in the early 90s, but visionary people imagined a world in which every single person on the planet has one of these mobile devices and they fit in your pocket."

Previously, Forgacs and his father Gabor Forgacs founded the company Organovo, which uses 3D printing to create tissues of human kidneys and other organs for testing new medicines.  

"3D printing is a very exciting space and huge advances are likely in the next 10 or 20 years," said Otago University scientist Dr Tim Woodfield, who is currently leading a team using 3D printing to develop human tissue implants.

"However the research community remains somewhat skeptical because of the costs of engineering what may be an expensive or niche product."

With some of the world’s wealthiest backing the technology, perhaps it may come sooner than we previously thought?



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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