Each year the Electrolux Design Lab challenges design students all over the world to develop futuristic concepts today. This year they included a "Social Cooking" theme and encouraged designers to solve some of the biggest problems facing modern day families like: tightening schedules, challenging lifestyles, and too many unhealthy food options. One designer, Luiza Silva from Brazil responded in a big way: she came up with the concept for the Atomium 3D Food printer.
The Atomium is designed to build creative looking food shapes out of healthy ingredients. The basic ingredients are loaded into cartridges on the side of the unit and the food is built and cooked at the top. It's interactive too; according to Silva's Electrolux proposal, "The kids show a sketch or an object to create the desired aesthetic meal. Atomium will recognize this object/sketch by scanning it and then print it, choosing molecular ingredients to construct nutritional balance for the user's body, based on the user's medical data. The product uses a finger-digital identification to recognize the user and connect itself with newest personal data, such as medical checkup and daily activities that can influence the nutritional balance of the user's body."
The end result could technically be perfect kid food; entertaining enough for children to eat and based entirely on their identified nutritional needs. Silva's Atomium concept is one of the top twenty ideas still in the running at Electrolux. If she makes it to the top eight, Silva will get a chance to produce a physical model of her design. If she wins, she will receive 5,000 Euro and a six-month paid internship at an Electrolux global design centre. So far, the feedback for her concept has been positive, though she has not gone into great detail about the printing and scanning capabilities of the unit, or the nuts-and-bolts of how the unit would physically work.
Though the Atomium concept may need more work before it is a viable product, there are already working 3D food printers in use around the world. NASA is investigating whether or not food could be printed in space and speculative designer Susana Soares is printing biscuits out of bug flour. There's even some research going on that may one day allow us to 3D print our beef.