When we first covered the NASA funding of a 3D printer that prints food for astronauts in space, the project was still in the early prototype stage. But NASA saw promise in Anjan Contractor’s dream and awarded him a $125,000 grant. And now we have printed pizza. That may seem like a lot of dough for a medium pizza, but this is bigger than the pizza. Working with dry ingredients that can be stored for long periods means nutritious meals can be quickly prepared in tight spaces with little human intervention. For space travel, that’s crucial. And it’s arguably just as crucial for even terrestrial living in the future.
Food printing is being developed at an increasingly rapid pace. First, there were custom chocolates and cheese doodles, then sugar sculptures, and now we have printed veggie patties, breads, and pizzas. And these modern dishes are being served by several companies. That means various forms of food printers will be on the market very soon, likely this year.
Intricate chocolates will soon be standard in pastry shops. And it won’t be long before traditional restaurants start offering printed dishes, like potato cakes, ravioli, and pastas. Burgers will take on new shapes, as well as their buns. The ability to control the mixing of multiple ingredients means customizable dishes that can be catered to picky palates, while still being nutritious.
We’re only a few years away from Star Trek-style replicators that can whip up chicken soup, crab rangoon, and Earl grey tea. Future food printers won’t work with doughs and sauces, but with the base elements that make up all matter. But before that, they’ll work with fresh meats, flour, and oils, basically cooking meals on demand in adjustable configurations. Such machines will have several extruders and heated build chambers that serve as ovens. Tacos will come out on conveyor belts right into our mouths. The future is tasty.