Three thoughts come to mind when the issue of three dimensional printers are discussed. First is the thought that three dimensional printing cannot be possible. The second thought is that three dimensional printers save time and money. But the final thought is that three dimensional printing can do work that people were never able to do in the first place!
WHY 3D PRINTING IS IMPORTANT
Three dimensional printers have been around for a while. These technological marvels produce toys, parts, building components and products by mixing various polymers or metal powders with binding liquids, then printing them out through jets in the same way that inkjet printers work. The powders and liquids are called “feedstock” and the objects are built up layer by layer.
The printers have three major components: a computer that processes the instructions that are required, the jets that print out the material, and the software that give sets of instructions about the material.
The printed objects can have incredible and very fine detail because of the computer assisted design (CAD) software. Objects can be rendered as very sturdy and useful parts or components for industrial and other uses. Imagine being able to go to the car parts store and have a new knob or part for the car printed up.
The printers have been instrumental in creating objects from patent and engineering prototypes to intricate and detailed toys or models. This exquisite motorcycle was made with a 3D printer.
The most mind blowing idea is being taken seriously by NASA, and that idea is to send 3D printers into space with a goal of using them for space construction! Blasting off with feedstock instead of the finished equipment and the equipment that holds everything safely in place during launch would eliminate much of the payload weight. Instead, the raw materials for structures and equipment could be sent. Eventually, the raw materials could eventually be mined from the surface of a planet or Moon.
PRINTING 3D FOOD
But it’s all about the food today. Just as with the materials printers, 3D food printers work with food pastes that are put into either one or two injectors. Then the injectors, sometimes with special extruding heads, can print out bits of food like this 3D deep fried space shuttle . The famous deep fried space shuttle was printed out with a mix of scallops, seasonings and cheese.
The more sensible uses for a 3D food printer include commercial food preparation and experimental fine dining, where a design that is impossible to make by hand can be used to enhance the food. Cornell Creative Machine Labs works on machines like 3D printers in the hope that the machines will someday be low enough in price to be used in the home.
The food that can go through the food-jets is an interesting matter since the food will have to work like ink does. Pureed scallops, celery, chocolate, hummus and turkey have worked well. There is talk of a printed steak with a hidden message or logo embedded in it.
But the possibilities for adding ingredients and flavor to the feedstock are somewhat endless, as nutrition, texture and flavor, as well as healthy cooking methods like baking, proper deep frying, and roasting, can be utilized.
There is much work to be done before the 3D printers can sit next to the toaster on the kitchen counters of most homes, however. This work includes developing recipes and the related instructional software. There must be ways to produce and market the correct mixes of pureed or pulverized foods, and the devices will have to be economical and productive enough to satisfy the needs of the home or the small business.
3D printing is the latest step in the journey toward having the “food replicators” that were such beloved features of the Star Trek franchise. Imagine that the world might only be a few years away from getting up in the morning, pouring a cup of coffee that was brewed with a timer, and enjoying a nutrition packed breakfast that was printed and cooked while the coffee was brewing!
Imagine being able to make healthy, but tasty and fun cereal for the kids to enjoy. An even better option would be to come home and to cook a five minute dinner that tastes and looks like a gourmet meal!