Natural Machines Sets 3D Food Printing Sights on the Kitchen

By Wesley Fenlon

If it begins as a dough or paste, you'll probably be able to "print" it into a food with Natural Machines' new kitchen appliance.

The march towards viable 3D food printing continues on. Earlier this year we wrote about the technology being developed to 3D print space food, which could be great for astronauts in the future. They'd potentially have access to a wider variety of foods, and the printer and ingredients would likely take up less space in transport. Meanwhile, the rest of us down here on the ground will be twiddling our thumbs and eating our normal food. Unless, that is, you're interested in plopping down about $1300 for Natural Machines' upcoming 3D food printer, the Foodini.

Photo credit: Natural Machines

Smithsonian Mag writes that Natural Machines has developed a 3D food printer for foods that start off as pastes or doughs. It can also handle pureed ingredients, sauces--some of the printer's completed meals include ravioli, bean burgers, and bread. Naturally, it can print chocolate.

In the same way 3D printers extrude plastic onto a printing platform, the Natural Machines printer really just squeezes liquid materials into a precise formation. There's no fancy CAD software here. It also doesn't cook its ingredients, though it does have some built-in heating elements to keep ingredients warm during the process. The difference, in this case, is that the printer houses five ingredients capsules for creating its meals, rather than the 1-2 materials most 3D printers currently can print with at once.

Natural Machines is going through all the work necessary to get its 3D printer approved by the FDA, and the company hopes to build up a community to create and share recipes for the kitchen printer. Those who expect it to automate all their cooking will almost certainly end up disappointed, but that's not really Natural Machines' goal. They want the device to streamline some of cooking's more rote activities--forming dough into a dozen breadsticks, or filling and forming individual ravioli--to encourage more people to eat healthy foods rather than opt for the frozen package. And that might just work.