There have been several attempts at 3D food printing, ranging from experimental to limited commercial units, most of which have disappeared. A new venture, the Foodini, might change that pattern.
The Foodini is an extrusion-based device, unlike the powder-based ChefJet machines from 3D Systems. It uses pressure to push food pastes through an extruder onto a plate.
Fortunately, Foodini does not provide pre-made food “material”. The machine includes five empty cartridges into which you load your own food. Of course, the food must be transformed into an extrudable paste first, perhaps by cooking or blunt mashing. It’s then extruded appropriately according to the 3D model being printed.
You can develop your own food models or use some provided by Natural Machines, the makers of Foodini. The recipes are not merely 3D models; you must acquire, prepare and load the food demanded by the recipe.
There are certainly numerous challenges with food printing, which is likely why few have succeeded and why it’s taken this long for a real food printer to emerge. Food safety is obviously one concern, which may arise at numerous points in the Foodini workflow.
A big concern for us is speed. People need to eat, and some people need to eat Right Now. 3D printing is very slow, and although the Foodini likely has a “fat” resolution, the kids will probably be waiting for their dinosaur-shaped burgers for quite a while.
The Foodini isn’t out yet. It’s currently in crowdfunding on Kickstarter, where you can buy a place in line for its eventual release, which is thought to be early 2015.