3D Printer Plays With Its Food…and Makes A Miniature Space Shuttle

By Patrick Morgan | March 2, 2011 5:44 pm

Most people outgrow the days of carving rivulets in mashed potato mountains or castles out of seasoned squash—but  scientists aren’t “most people.” One ragtag team of researchers and culinary experts are harnessing the power of 3-D food printers to bring the science of playing-with-your-food to new levels, such as outer space.

In a project called fab@home, Cornell’s Computational Synthesis Laboratory and the French Culinary Institute have made a giant leap for mankind by fashioning a miniature space shuttle made of pureed scallops and cheese.

So what does it take to create such intricate food sculptures? Cornell graduate research student Jeffrey Lipton told CBC News:

“The process is pretty simple … Just as … your 2D printer puts droplets of ink onto a page to create an image, this draws lines of material on top of each other to create a 3D object.”

It’s the same technology as rapid prototyping machines, except you’re switching in food pastes for plastics and metal. Precisely-positioned nozzles squirt out edible creations of virtually every flavor, and so far, the lab has tackled various foodstuffs, including cheese, chocolate, hummus, and turkey.

But interesting shapes and flavors isn’t the only thing they’re interested in; the technique also opens up new possibilities for textures. Simply by having the machine print random squiggly lines, they’ve created new varieties of crispy corn snacks. And if you were to feed pureed meat into this 3-D printer, the researchers even think it’s possible to create a meatloaf-like substance that’s as absorbent as a sponge.

With the successful launch of miniature space ships, it appears that the future of 3-D food technology is wide open—paving the way for a future where parents actually encourage their kids to play with their food.

Related Content
Discoblog: The Closest Humankind Has Come to the Star Trek Food Replicator
Discoblog: Robot, Build Thyself: Machine Made of Lego Builds Models Made of Lego
DISCOVER: Just How Nasty Is Space Food?
Science Not Fiction: You Got Genetic Engineered Fish in My Dish!

Image: Cornell University/French Culinary Institute

  • CharonPDX

    Mmmm… “Food paste”….

  • MT-LA

    Mmmmm… “Meatloaf-like substance” …

  • Other Paul

    Going to the copy shop to get your leaflets done? Get your snacks printed while-u-wait.

  • http://www.xn--danske-bten-48a.no Baten

    This is just brilliant, just think how much easier it is to get children to eat food if it’s shaped like something they like.

  • http://sldtech.com Ben

    I don’t know if this is the same printer, but there are some pastry chef’s out there that are utilizing 3D Printing for elaborate cake designs.

  • http://www.wildsalmonfishing.com fish

    That is sooo tiny.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar