NASA has awarded a grant to prototype a 3D printer for food, specifically pizza, to a mechanical engineer called Anjan Contractor.
Anjan’s food printer will deposit layers of food and flavor powers which is then melted together ready for consumption. The powders are stable at room-temperature for long periods and can be produced from abundant, sustainable food stocks such as insects and vegetables. NASA is probably interested in this process a way of feeding astronauts on long haul missions to Mars and to sustain them after they get there.
3D printing is also being proposed as a way of building structures on the moon using regolith material from its surface. Having the ability to create equipment, structures and even food from abundant materials saves energy and mission costs as they don’t have to be taken by the astronauts.
Pizza is a food that lends itself to 3D printing as it can be assembled in layers that a print head extruder can handle one food material at a time. The pizza printer is in the conceptual stage and will work by printing the dough later first, which is baked by the heated printer bed. The tomato base is then printed from a powder that is mixed with water and oil, followed by the “protein layer” toppings.
The video above shows Contractor’s proof-of-concept chocolate 3D printer which he hopes will evolve into a machine that can help solve world hunger, which is quite a lofty aim. The choco-printer is based on the open source RepRap 3D printer which has been modified to accommodate the printing of food based materials from the specially designed print head extruder.