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Would 3D food printing change the way we eat?


I am not sure if chefs around the world are concerned for the 3D food technology being developed and improved every single day. However, I am more interested in understanding how consumers or foodies would feel or how fast would this technology be in every home or more important everywhere. As a matter of fact, I do not think that you may traditionally consider the following as technology, for the main reason that most of us consider those as granted and provided by nature, however are fundamental and basic for humanity: climate, oxygen, water and food. In general, if we go 3 minutes without breathing, 3 days without drinking water, 30 days without food or exposure of 45 degrees celsius for long period (our cells start to die at 41degrees), we’re dead.

We hear a lot of news about climate change and some technological developments that will help on that. Moreover, we are starting to see people selling oxygen in bottles, as we get water now and now we have food being able to be printed. You might feel that this is something of a futuristic movie and some of the other 3 basic elements are just being pack somehow and presented to us. As a matter of fact, think of the innovations that had to be developed in order to help or damage the climate, to bottle clean water or oxygen and even processed food. More important, is how humans have evolved in the way we are consuming each of those elements in time. In order to understand how we are adopting change and technologies, lets compare with other innovations that we have introduced.

The chart give a very easy interpretation of the time taken today for a new technology. In 1900 the electricity, telephone, car and radio came to revolutionize the status quo. In fact, Henry Ford that invented the car, believed that the horse would be there to stay and the car was novelty a fad. It took nearly 50 years to these four technologies to reach a population of 80 to 95% of the US households, exactly what took the color TV and Cellphones 15 years. One thing is a fact, that today consumers are more open to try new things, take a look at the following chart to complement the previous.

If we consider the following statement that people today and potentially tomorrow, will be more open to adopt new technologies, what would be the potential impact that we would have as a society.

I will start it with the potential changes. Food seems to be a moment to socialize and has been for many years, also has employed many chefs and service around it, the farming industry and some of the companies that produce food today either ready to eat, organic, frozen, processed or as of any sort would have to evolve somehow. There will be changes in the educational industry to develop food engineers to be able to produce and sell ingredient cartridges. So far we can see an impact on the way we interact and our behavior, food companies, fast food chains, logistics, materials to pack, universities, service at restaurants, chefs, farming just to mention some industries. However, imagine the positive side of it; food access could be everywhere, a basic element of human survival accessible to all. Today, we have 815 million people who do not have enough to eat and changes here could potentially transform our social responsibility. If we try to imagine how this could look like, imagine Japan, that has today more than 5.5 million vending in the country (Japan has a population of 127 million that would be 1 vending for every 22 people). Therefor, you would be able to have a hamburger, nuggets, pizza or even a gourmet or the finest dinning or lunch, pay with your phone and eat it.

Today 3D printers are no longer a fantasy. Today you can have access to a printer and as a matter of fact, is already being used in commercial kitchens, bakeries, and confectionaries are using 3D food printers to save time and effort. There is no difference on the way a printer looks the only difference are the edible materials, most 3D food printers function exactly like the plastic counterparts, they just extrude edible materials instead of thermoplastic thread.

The following images are 2 examples of 3D printers today. They cost around $1,300 dlls and you can use them with fresh ingredinets. However, it will not take long to evolve into a faster, cheaper and easier to access to this technology.

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