Mar 16, 2016 | By Alec

Had a long day at work? Don’t order a pizza, just 3D print one! That is, in a nutshell, the idea behind the BeeHex pizza 3D printer. While most food 3D printers are being specifically developed for use in professional kitchens and bakeries by top level chefs who want to add a special dimension to their signature dishes, developer and inventor Anjan Contractor envisions a different future. A future in which a food 3D printer can be found right next to your microwave, your espresso machine and other kitchen appliances that were original seen as unnecessary luxuries. And the first results of his efforts is the BeeHex pizza 3D printer, which you can now get a taste of yourself. Contractor has just launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, where you can support his research by ordering a delicious frozen 3D printed pizza, that will be mailed to your home.

Of course several food 3D printers are currently under development, but Contractor has been one of the first on the food 3D printing scene. Back in 2012, his company Systems & Materials Research Corporation (SMRC) received a $125,000 grant from the NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to develop a fully functional food 3D printer for printing customized nutritious food for astronauts during long distance space travel. Contractor had previously been involved in a diverse field of 3D printing prototyping, with food being one of SMRC’s most innovative projects – having proved its feasibility on a laboratory scale.

Contractor himself is a Professional Engineer and Six-Sigma green belt with more than a decade of experience in research, design, and prototyping, and previously revealed that he sees food 3D printing as a sustainable addition to every kitchen. In 2013, he showed the world his first prototype, a machine that could just create food from basic powdered ingredients. They feed themselves “customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store,” he described. The same principle would also enable NASA to feed astronauts on deep-space missions.

It was an ambitious research project, but it was shut down by an unexpected new problem: the 2014 government shutdown enforced by Congress. In the wake of the shutdown, Senator Ted Cruz managed to cut $1.1 billion out of the NASA budget. “In effect, our special project with NASA was defunded,” says on Kickstarter.

But he has not given up hope, and founded the BeeHex company to bring that space food technology to kitchens everywhere, and he hopes they become a common sight over the next few years. According to the 36-year-old mechanical engineer, his 3D printer can 3D print pizzas, chocolate, cupcakes and cinnamon rolls in just a matter of minutes, and showed off its speed by 3D printing tiny pizzas shapes like the United States at the South by Southwest’s trade show in Austin last weekend. He printed off tiny pizzas in the shape of the U.S. for attendees of the film, music and interactive festival.

So far, the response was very good. “Many people ask me, ‘Can you eat this?’ ” the inventor revealed. “It’s no different than a robot making food.” Like any other food 3D printer, it pushes the pizza ingredients (dough, cheese and tomato sauce) through narrow nozzles to create layered structures. The pizza will obviously need to be baked in an oven after printing, though Contractor is already dreaming about a 3D printed/oven combo. “BeeHex Hex Series 3D printers’ patent-pending pneumatic technology extrudes viscous material from a replaceable cartridge in a clean and efficient process. Hex Series 3D printers have solved problematic dripping and leakage that plague other 3D printers. The result of its technology is visually appealing and representative food,” he reveals on his website.

First up, however, is a kitchen appliance 3D printer. Having assembled a team of developers around him in BeeHex, he is very confident about their chances. “It started with the oven range. Then came the microwave. The next product you'll take for granted in your kitchen is the 3D printer,” he writes on his website. The initial machine will be able to 3D print 14-inch pizzas, that are – he says – delicious.

It all sounds great, but in the wake of the government shutdown, the team is in desperate need of funding. That’s where Kickstarter comes in. “We seriously need your support. Here's the deal: Order a Pizza. We'll send you a frozen-packed 3D printed pizza in the mail,” he writes. It’s quite an interesting deal. Have you ever supported science by eating pizza before? For a pledge of just $19 for a small six inch pizza ( $29 for a ten inch) you can do just that. Contractor hopes to gather $5,000 in pledges, which will go a long way towards finishing development and making this space pizza 3D printer a commercial reality. For more information, check them out on Kickstarter here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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I. A. M. Magic wrote at 3/16/2016 5:09:09 PM:

What is the added value of "3D printing" a pizza? Just like the "3D" pancake NC machine.

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