Print 35 comment(s) - last by delphinus100.. on May 25 at 1:03 AM

Items on the menu include cricket pizza

Imagine exchanging recipes in the form of a piece of software instead of typed instructions on a website, and eating pizza with crickets on it instead of pepperoni.

This could be the future of long-term space travel, and even everyday life.

Anjan Contractor, who own Systems & Materials Research Corporation, has created a universal food synthesizer that uses a 3D printer to make food -- and he just received a six-month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype.

His prototype 3D food printer is based on a piece of open-source hardware called the second-generation RepRap 3D printer.  

The universal food synthesizer would read recipes in software form, where instructions on how to make certain foods would be embedded. This software tells the 3D printer which powders to mix with which liquids.

The software will also be entirely open-source, so that others can look at the code and create recipes.  

After the 3D printer "reads" the recipe, it uses a combination of powdered and certain liquid ingredients to make food layer-by-layer -- just like other 3D printed materials. Powdered forms of ingredients are used because they last longer.

“Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life,” said Contractor. “The way we are working on it is, all the carbs, proteins and macro and micro nutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out, and in that form it will last maybe 30 years.”

Users of the universal food synthesizer can add the exact amount of proteins, carbs, etc. that they want for nutritional value. 

Also, because meat is environmentally unsustainable, the 3D printer uses insects, algae, grass, duckweed, etc. for protein. 

The first idea for the prototype is a pizza, where the printer would make a dough layer first, then a tomato paste layer and finally, a protein layer made of insects, plants or milk-based powder. 

While this 3D printed food is mainly for long-term space travel right now, Contractor believes it could also have a place in every kitchen as the human population increases. Toward the end of the century when the population is expected to be around 12 billion, a universal food synthesizer could eliminate food waste and ensure that all 12 billion mouths are fed with balanced nutrition. 

Source: Quartz

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But can it ..
By Screwuhippie on 5/21/2013 1:53:10 PM , Rating: 5
"Tea. Earl Grey. Hot."

RE: But can it ..
By Flunk on 5/21/2013 2:14:45 PM , Rating: 5
I expect you'd end up with a beverage that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

RE: But can it ..
By toffty on 5/21/2013 3:26:20 PM , Rating: 3
HAHA Thank you! Best post I've seen in quite a while.

/em grabs a towel

RE: But can it ..
By johnsonx on 5/21/2013 11:02:36 PM , Rating: 5

RE: But can it ..
By adams23 on 5/22/2013 1:22:31 AM , Rating: 2
It would probably be mostly harmless though :)

RE: But can it ..
By Crank the Planet on 5/22/2013 3:56:49 PM , Rating: 2
Glop....Artificially colored and flavored glop. Other than the "in space for a long time" application it will never replace real food. If people would wake up from the fast food mentality, you would be surprised at what you find. There is no substitute for good quality real food.

Glop- research Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil and see what they make of it. It might make you sick on what it is and how they process it. You'd be surprised to see what it's in that you eat. It's still being widely used in everything. Even with all the exposure nothing has changed.

RE: But can it ..
By BRB29 on 5/21/2013 2:55:50 PM , Rating: 2
This is like that Star Trek thing except slower.

RE: But can it ..
By Obujuwami on 5/21/2013 3:07:04 PM , Rating: 3
With time will come improvement, give it 30 years and it will be better. Give it 60 years and it will be fake steak with fake potatoes and fake asparagus! Top it all off with fake gravy!

RE: But can it ..
By ven1ger on 5/21/2013 4:28:10 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, though I think this first step may have been a breakthrough, and usually once you have reached the first hurdle and shown the possibilities, then progress tends to go much faster with regards to new things like this. Maybe within the first 10 years or so we'll see working prototypes that offer basic food types. And maybe soon after that it'll be exactly what Star Trek showed us a sample.

RE: But can it ..
By Manch on 5/22/2013 3:49:09 AM , Rating: 2
Have you seen some of the 90 sec microwaveable meals? i question if they were made with real meat and potatoes. They're worse than MRE's. At least maybe with this theyll have a new use for the pink slime.

RE: But can it ..
By BRB29 on 5/22/2013 9:12:35 AM , Rating: 2
So instead of field stripping and jamming MREs into my pack, the whole squad just need a printer and a bunch of cartridges lol

RE: But can it ..
By Creig on 5/22/2013 8:27:32 AM , Rating: 2
Hot chocolate, however, will NOT be an available option.

By daboom06 on 5/21/2013 2:15:51 PM , Rating: 4
this is hardly a step past making it yourself without the printer.

i was hoping it would be able to make multiple things from a single ingredient. using actual chemistry used to turn a precursor sugar monomer into cellulose fiber and fructose to make a slice of fruit by layer deposition, for example. anything less than that is literally spraying edible ink (that is reconstituted from the dried end product) onto paper and licking it off. boring

RE: advancement?
By invidious on 5/21/2013 2:41:22 PM , Rating: 3
Making it yourself requires fresh ingredients and a kitchen, space shuttles have neither. This is one appliance that uses extremely refined ingredients and repurposes them into something that loosely resembles food that a person would consider apetizing. Obviously it won't be as good as fresh food but it will probably be a big step up from homogenized nutrient slurry.

Also I think you are confusing printing with constructing. Printers create simple objects, constructors assemble complex objects. For example a 3D printer can make all the parts for a watch, but it can't assemble them into a watch, a constructor does that.

RE: advancement?
By BRB29 on 5/22/2013 9:14:57 AM , Rating: 2
Eventually, only the rich could afford fresh food and a kitchen. It's going to happen and it's inevitable.

RE: advancement?
By Reclaimer77 on 5/22/2013 9:30:24 AM , Rating: 2
Whenever you have people starving, it's not because of food supply. It always boils down to politics.

However that's a pretty bold statement you're making. People have been saying it for 50+ years in one form or another, and haven't been right yet.

Perhaps inevitable if we continue the course of a one-world centralized Government embracing socialism...

RE: advancement?
By BRB29 on 5/22/2013 11:10:56 AM , Rating: 2
It's going to happen when population density is high. For example, it's already happening in the cities. Space is expensive. Most new apartments sacrifice kitchen size to have more space in the living quarters. That is also why open floor plans are more popular because it gives the feeling of a larger space.

I know for a fact that many people in NYC, DC, Chicago, etc... are living in places with no kitchen or a very small one that does not have everything.

I don't know where you're basing anything you say from but it's real and it's already happening. You probably don't live in a crowded area and probably narrow minded.

RE: advancement?
By ven1ger on 5/22/2013 2:32:41 PM , Rating: 2
What you say is very true. Apartments have seen changes to the bathroom, where there is only a shower where there used to be a tub. Bedroom sizes have shrunk or the number of bathrooms have gotten reduced, so now kitchens are getting trimmed down.

If you look at extremely dense cities, outside of the US, say like Hong Kong, you see stacked beds with many living in very crowded conditions or look at Tokyo where many have very small living spaces enough for a futon, possibly a dresser, small frig. and usually a microwave for heating. Space is definitely at a premium and with a price tag to match.

RE: advancement?
By Reclaimer77 on 5/22/2013 8:32:43 PM , Rating: 2
There's a massive flaw in your premise that's two parts.

1. We're seeing a trend of rock-bottom birth rates in developed countries. The U.S and Europe are at 50 year lows. It's common to have families with more grandparents than grandchildren today. The doomsayer predictions of yesteryear over the overpopulation of the human race just isn't happening.

2. This isn't Judge Dread, we're not forced to live in "Megacities". There's so much room for humans to expand it's not even funny. People choose to live in high population centers for convenience and other factors, yes. But most of the land mass on Earth is barely being utilized!

So your claim that "eventually only the rich will have kitchens"? Nah. And if so, like I said, it will be for political reasons. Not population density or land mass.

You probably don't live in a crowded area and probably narrow minded.

Seems like you are. The living conditions of NYC, DC, Chicago etc etc simply don't represent the majority of us. Not even close.

Also the economy and conditions in a lot of these large cities are causing a mass exodus. People are LEAVING the cities bro.

RE: advancement?
By Jeffk464 on 5/22/2013 12:35:48 PM , Rating: 2
this is hardly a step past making it yourself without the printer.

Basically, you could make a meal replacement shake where you just add water and shake it up.

environmentally unsustainable? Really?
By harshbarj on 5/21/2013 6:18:45 PM , Rating: 4
"Also, because meat is environmentally unsustainable"
Sounds like something a vegan would post. We have been raising animals for meat from the dawn of civilization. I just don't see how this comment is of any merit?

By ven1ger on 5/21/2013 7:07:03 PM , Rating: 2
I'm no vegetarian but I think this has more to do with the amount to put one pound of meat on the table is totally offset by the number of pounds to feed the animal over the course of its lifetime to provide that meat. Don't know the ratio off-hand but it is quite a lot. Or another way to look at it is if a cow has requires an acre to graze, that acreage could be better used to grow crops that could feed more people.

RE: environmentally unsustainable? Really?
By Reclaimer77 on 5/22/2013 9:22:56 AM , Rating: 2
That's what I was thinking too. Because you can dehydrate and powder meat as well, which would have a similar shelf-life to these other ingredients. So obviously he's making a choice based on some lame ideology to exclude real meat.

Hey buddy, you know what else is "environmentally unsustainable"? SPACEFLIGHT!! lol

Speaking of shelf life, the cold vacuum of space makes one hell of a freezer. Just saying..

By delphinus100 on 5/25/2013 1:03:52 AM , Rating: 2
Speaking of shelf life, the cold vacuum of space makes one hell of a freezer. Just saying..

'Vacuum' isn't any temperature. The sunlit side of ISS or anything else in space (unless very far from it, of course) can get quite hot, thank you...

Interesting technology.
By Ammohunt on 5/21/2013 2:28:34 PM , Rating: 2
But i will sooner grow my own food. We are very far from having to develop soylents to feed people. I could see this as a specialty niche market for sure.

RE: Interesting technology.
By lagomorpha on 5/21/2013 5:36:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, at this point it's probably safe to say that 'feeding people for long durations during spaceflight' is a fairly niche market.

RE: Interesting technology.
By Ammohunt on 5/21/2013 8:19:17 PM , Rating: 1
If you were well read you would have known that the main goal of the designers this system was to solve world hunger problems.

RE: Interesting technology.
By Cheesew1z69 on 5/21/2013 9:29:47 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps if you had actually read the article....

While this 3D printed food is mainly for long-term space travel right now , Contractor believes it could also have a place in every kitchen as the human population increases. Toward the end of the century when the population is expected to be around 12 billion, a universal food synthesizer could eliminate food waste and ensure that all 12 billion mouths are fed with balanced nutrition. 

RE: Interesting technology.
By ven1ger on 5/22/2013 2:41:22 PM , Rating: 2
I had a mental hiccup so read it like

"universal food synthesizer could eliminate ... waste and ensure that all 12 billion mouths are fed with balanced nutrition"


By ninelite on 5/21/2013 6:44:52 PM , Rating: 2
Does anyone catch the part where the printer will use insects for protein?

"because meat is environmentally unsustainable, the 3D printer uses insects"

Can't imagine if I have to eat insects all of time, even if its insects powders. I wonder what type of insects they use.

RE: Insects???
By ven1ger on 5/21/2013 7:17:30 PM , Rating: 2
Humans eat bugs all the time, some of this I found out recently, though never really thought about it.

When you eat wheat products, a lot of weevil larvae and other parts of bugs end up in the food you eat. It's estimated people eat about 1 pound a year without even realizing it is in the food you eat. When you sleep it is estimated you swallow about 8-12 bugs per year. If you ride a bicycle, motorcycle without face protection, you'll probably eat a few that way also. So, ingesting bugs aren't necessarily bad for you and we all eat bugs to some extent.

I don't mind if this method can produce a good hamburger without real meat, already we sort of do this with garden burgers, tofu burgers to replace meat but healthier and maybe tastes as good. If it can taste good and be healthier I don't think I'd really care what it consists of.

RE: Insects???
By theapparition on 5/22/2013 9:44:32 AM , Rating: 2
Once you get over the bug part, in theory at least, the purified protein should be indistinguishable from other forms of protein.

However, and this is a big one, the printed food, at least for now will have virtually no texture, or rather the entire meal would have the same texture. Think the difference between a real piece of chicken and one blended smooth and reconstituted. Also they'd have to add flavoring to the printing process, otherwise the purified base ingredients wouldn't have much of a taste.

There won't be chewy and crunchy parts, and printed cheese wouldn't have the same texture and taste as what we consider now.

Overall, this wouldn't be much different from eating the mush served on the ship in the Matrix movie, although the presentation would be better.

Still, it seems like interesting tech. It's fascinating to see what they are trying to accomplish with 3D printing now.

RE: Insects???
By Rukkian on 5/22/2013 12:04:02 PM , Rating: 2
I am pretty sure the 3d printer would be able to do different textures, as it is not just molding it, it actually prints everything layer by layer. If it could not do this, you might as well just have the mush they had on the Matrix.

By ven1ger on 5/21/2013 2:34:38 PM , Rating: 2
At first thought, it didn't sound like much. After reading it a little more and thinking about it more, especially in the kitchen, this might have possibilities. If we can break down prepared foods into their basic forms that can be duplicated with a printer to reconstitute the food from powders and whatever else, then those who aren't good cooks, like myself can have food created as long as you have the necessary in light of a better word, ingredients (powders). Could have a meal based upon recipes without all the hassle of cutting, heating, mixing, etc.

This is the sort of food that has been demonstrated from Star Trek. Really kind of cool if it can be modeled and produced.

Half the solution
By opy on 5/22/2013 7:51:22 PM , Rating: 2
I hope they have an idea how this printer will work without gravity or your going to get your ham and your pineapple all covered in dough.

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