Students working with the Cornell Creative Machines Lab (CCML) at Cornell University have developed a 3D food printer capable of printing a space shuttle-shaped scallop along with cakes that display dates, initials and corporate logos when sliced. They have also been able to produce hamburger patties with liquid layers of ketchup and mustard, and a vegan hamburger substitute.
The process of printing food is called Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF). During SFF the printer uses a syringe to deposit layers of liquids like molten chocolate, cheese or batter. The printer can also work with non-liquid foods like meats and vegetables as long as they are first ground up and mixed with a liquid.
It's possible that in the future, food printers will be able to create foods in geometric patterns and shapes that are impossible to produce by hand. "It's a huge design space and the combination of tastes and textures, geometries and colors that can be achieved are enormous," says Cornell Professor Hod Lipson. "People like to play with food. They like to express themselves in food. This allows them to express themselves in not just what the food is made of, but what it's shaped like. We can make health food more fun, interesting, and appealing with this technology. What kid wouldn't eat a space shuttle, even one made of peas?"
The food printer was developed as part of Cornell's Fab@Home project. The best news is, the entire project is open source. If you're up for an adventure you can join the community and get in on the action.
We've got a four minute long video for you here that shows the printer making three different desserts.
NASA has also been looking into 3D printed food. They want their astronauts to be able to create their own food in orbit while they are on long missions.