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Food science turns science fiction as 3D printer paste makes pizza

Olivia Jenkins, December 7, 2021 7:00PM Kids News

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Is this the perfect marriage between digital and physical worlds? Yes, this BeeHex pizza in the US was made using 3D printer with layers of ingredient paste as the “ink”. media_cameraIs this the perfect marriage between digital and physical worlds? Yes, this BeeHex pizza in the US was made using 3D printer with layers of ingredient paste as the “ink”.

technology

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Australians could soon be 3D printing entire meals in what could be the biggest culinary* breakthrough since microwave ovens.

Researchers want to bring the taste and texture of popular foods to life through three-dimensional printers – and even help people tailor their diets to improve their health at the same time.

Mums and dads with fond memories of watching cartoon space family The Jetsons might soon be making space-age dishes for real, with the developers suggesting flatpack ready-to-eat meals and individual ingredients could be available in households, shops and restaurants in as little as four years.

media_cameraOur cars still don’t fly, but The Jetsons cartoon that was around when some parents were kids had creators that imagined all sorts of crazy possibilities for food in the future – concepts that do not seem so crazy now that 3D-printed food is here.

Hearty Adventures in Food and Play research lab director Dr Rohit Ashok Khot said the technology needed to make printing food would revolutionise* shopping and eating habits in a way not seen since the microwave oven became a common household appliance.

“Food printing, I think, has lots of potential for our future mainly because of the way it can connect digital with physical,” Dr Khot said. “The last major invention that happened around cooking was microwaves, which was around the 1970s, so after that there hasn’t been anything that has actually caught the mainstream* attention.

“Printing can change that, because it can allow us to then craft and design food digitally.”

media_cameraMicrowave ovens were a big deal when they were invented. As a domestic appliance for the average family, microwave technology was exciting and futuristic.

Three-dimensional food printers typically use an “ink” – ingredients often in a paste or powder – to print an item or entire dish layer by layer.

US company BeeHex has developed a machine that uses paste-like ingredients to print dough, sauce and cheese for a pizza within a minute.

Australian researchers have also used 3D printing to create meats for people who struggle to swallow. The pulped or pulverised* meat is printed layer by layer, forming a steak-like shape that can be more easily eaten.

The new appliance could even act as a combined Thermomix food processor and 3D printer, allowing ingredients to be mixed, printed and baked in the one machine, according to Monash Food Innovation design manager Adam Norris.

media_cameraEager eaters line up to sample the BeeHex 3D-printed pizza.

Time-poor bakers could throw eggs, flour and butter into the machine, which would be processed into a paste, printed and baked into a cake.

As well as allowing people to make “marvellous” or chef-quality structures from food, Mr Norris said food printing would also be a game changer for eliminating* allergy risks while producing large-scale, tailor-made food for health conscious people as early as 2030.

“Businesses are looking at new ways to provide a bespoke* experience and product,” Mr Norris said.

“We’ve realised everybody’s needs are different. Why not create the food to fit you?”

Dr Khot said printing flatpack foods could also help by giving restaurants and cafes a novelty* service to offer customers while reducing the amount of packaging used to sell meals and ingredients.

GLOSSARY

  • culinary: relating to cooking and the kitchen
  • revolutionise: transform, change something in a major way
  • mainstream: accepted by most people, ordinary, normal, conventional
  • pulverised: crushed, pounded, ground to pieces
  • eliminating: removing, excluding, taking something away
  • bespoke: created especially for an individual, custom-made, tailor-made
  • novelty: something new, original, fresh, sometimes a fashion or fad

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Puss fitted with 3D-printed metal paws

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What was the last major invention in cooking and when did it happen?
  2. What is the so-called printer “ink”?
  3. How long does it take for a BeeHex pizza to make a pizza?
  4. Australian researchers have made layered steak to help which people?
  5. Why might restaurants and cafes embrace the new technology?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. 3D food menu
Design a three course 3D printed food menu for a dinner party with your friends. Describe each course and details about your dinner party event in planner below.

Food:
Entree:
Main:
Dessert:
Where will your dinner party be held?
Theme of the party?
How many guests?
Drinks (possibly 3D printed too)

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
What would be the advantages and disadvantages of this new three-dimensional food technology? Is it something you think could be beneficial to your family? Why or why not?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
What happens next?
Imagine this story becomes part of an animated series made up of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell the complete story and this article is only Part 1. Think about what the rest of the story could be and draw the next two cartoons that tell the story.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Visual Arts; Visual Communication Design; Critical and Creative Thinking

Extra Reading in technology