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Digital Food

The integration of robotics and cooking is a concept novel to many. Luckily, a team at Columbia University is trying to break through this realm of exploration. Read on to find out more.

At the Creative Machines Lab, a team of professors and students are developing a 3D food printer that prints edible materials. This project began over a decade ago, in which students experimented with inserting chocolate rather than plastic into a 3D printer. With the interesting results, the team made it their goal to create a machine made particularly for printing edible items by computer-guided deposition and cooking of edible pastes, gels, etc. They even worked with professional chefs from the International Culinary Center to enrich the quality of their printouts.

One specialty of the prototype is its ability to cook various ingredients at different rates and temperatures. The process works as follows: the ingredients, typically in the form of pastes, are extruded from the machine and onto a surface that is heated like a stovetop. The software calculates the cooking time, and then applies an infrared laser at sections that require more heat than others.

Moreover, the machine puts an emphasis on personalising meals to a person’s dietary requirements. This way, printing food will expand avenues for culinary nutrition, as food will be optimized according to a person’s biometrics. Hence, the prospects of this machine are highly enticing, because it has the potential to solve the growing issue of consuming processed food that lacks nutrients and vitamins.

Other interesting functionalities include the machine being able to download instructions from the internet and personalize the design of the foods. Sending digital recipes to other 3D printers is also another feature.

Once this technology becomes distributed universally, the machine will democratize cooking in ways never seen before.


Written by Amanda Y