3D printing is an innovative way of structuring an object or creating layer by layer. A design of the product is developed into the computer and the same system is integrated with the machine. Small granules of the raw materials are feeded into the machines that are further released by the robot arm to form the 3D shape.  The similar technology is applied for creating food products. 3D technology printers not only help in the formation of the 3D shape but also deliver the food with eye pleasing taste and most importantly the taste.

The technology has brought the tremendous change in the food industry with several companies across the globe trying their hand at 3D printing food. 3D printing technology involves a process known as additive manufacturing, wherein 3D deposition printers slowly deposits the layers of materials, one of the top of the other, until a product is released. 3D printers are used for manufacturing and creating food utilizes lasers, powdery materials and nozzles and is opening the new doors for the customization of the food products with a delivery of potent mix of the right nutrients. Different printers are used for creating the image of the food and among them one is Chef Jet manufactured by the 3D systems. It crystalizes the thin layers of fine grain sugar into a variety of geometric configurations. Choc-Edge, another printer from Barcelona based Natural Foods, dispenses chocolate from syringes into a beautifully melty patterns. Moreover, the cutting-edge printers can handle more tasks as compared to the Chef Jet and Choc-Edge printers. The Foodini, for example uses fresh ingredients loaded into stainless steel capsules to make foods like pizza, brownie and stuffed pasta.

The time and effort saved by the 3D food printers has led to their adoption across the various companies globally. With the democratization of the technology, 3D printers can print various foods, including chocolate. The printers can print the complicated chocolate sculptures and beautiful pieces for decoration on a wedding table. This has been made possible with these printers as these printers reduce time which otherwise is possible only through the years of experience.

Market Size and Forecast

The market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 50% during the period 2017-2024 and is expected to reach USD 400 million by 2024. The market growth is driven by the factors such as growing demand for customized food and increasing demand from the healthcare applications. Food Ink, a 3D printed restaurant serves the deserts to the customers that are 3D printed.

Further, a German nursing home, uses a 3D printer to create a food product called Smoothfoods that is a mixture of mashed peas, carrot and broccoli. Moreover, the consumer with 3D printer at home could log into an online database of recipes and could design his own meal as long as there are right ingredients in the meal.

Growth Drivers and Challenges

The global market for 3D printers is driven by the need for customization as 3D printing saves both time and effort. The actual nutrients can themselves be customized, so consumers can benefit from tailor made food for their dietary requirements. 3D printing allows preparation of easy to chew food, having the composition specific to the nutrient requirement of the patients. This is likely to help in feeding the old patients with the food rich in specific nutrients, based on their requirements. Further, the innovation in healthy food has expanded the market to the global level. The 3D food printers are used to create a cracker-like yeast structures that include spores and seeds that sprout with time. Moreover, 3D printing has the ability to supply an ever-growing world population as compared to the traditional food manufacturing systems. 

3D food printers also have the potential to revolutionize nutrition i.e. they can determine the exact amount of the vitamins, carbohydrates required without any hard work. It also allows the consumers to print food with customized nutritional content that is optimized on the basis of the biometric and genomic data. The personalization of the nutritional based food has thus lead to the expansion of the market as it helps the consumers by creating a nutritional based food according to their demand. The market has also expanded due to the applications in the healthcare sector.

3D printers also help the patients who are suffering from the ailments and allergies by enabling them to use the technology that purees vegetables like carrots and broccoli into nutritional, easy to chew soft-molds of their original shape. WASP, a 3D printing company based in Italy, is testing a printer that can produce gluten-free versions of popular foods. However, the market growth is hindered by the slow process of 3D printing which requires cooling many a times before the food can be consumed. Moreover, the food customization techniques are less effective and at the same time, the manufacturing cost is high.

In terms of geography, Europe is dominating the market due to the rapid adoption of the technology by the consumers and implementing it to the daily food making procedure. Moreover, the 3D food printing market in Asia Pacific is expected to grow during the forecast period. Factors such as a high rate of aging and poverty, and lack of adequate amount of food to feed the population are likely to contribute to the growth of the market in Asia Pacific during the forecast period.

Source: Research Nester

Illustration Photo: Nico Kläber takes the marriage of science and cooking to a new level with “Moléculaire”, the 3D molecular food printer. Moléculaire is influenced by chefs that scientifically and painstakingly experiment with food and food states to surprise and provoke fresh ideas in cooking. Kläber recognizes that this approach, as it currently exists, requires great skill, time and knowledge. The Moléculaire simplifies the process and acts as a cnc (computer numerical control) food printer for both professional and domestic kitchens. It autonomously prepares basic and otherwise difficult to create two and three dimensional parts of meals. It works with a layer by layer printing process using small particles from diverse ingredients. This provides simplicity, accuracy, repeatability and, of course, great tasting food! (credits: Electrolux Design Lab / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0))

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