Industry 4.0 – Additive Manufacturing changing the Way of Food Production and Consumption
Additive Manufacturing is changing many areas of our daily life. Its impact reaches from the manufacturing of industry parts to the creation of dental implants. One of its evolving applications is food production. Experts believe that additive manufacturing could improve the nutritional value of meals, produce complex structures out of every day food and contribute to the ease of famine in regions of this planet that lack access to fresh and affordable ingredients. These expectations contribute to a growing market for additive manufacturing in food, which is expected to reach a global volume of approximately 526 $mil. In 2023 according to the analysts of Research & Markets.
Additive manufacturing in food leverages existing 3D printing technology. Most 3D food printers are deposition printers, adding layers of raw material. Nevertheless, a new printing technology is emerging: binding printers. This technology adheres materials together with a kind of edible cement. There are several printer manufacturers on the market. Natural Machines for example promote their Foodini printer, using fresh ingredients loaded into up to five stainless steel cartridges to produce stuffed pasta or pizza. The Italian food producer Barilla has also developed a food printer mixing water with flour to produce pasta in new designs. The US-based company Beehexis provides a pizza printer, which by operating a three-nozzle printer will combine cheese, dough and tomato sauce.
Additive Manufacturing can make a valuable contribution to solve nutritional problems. Therefore, one of its major applications will be smooth food. One out of 25 persons is suffering from chewing and swallowing difficulties limiting them to the consumption of pureed and liquid meals. To have these enjoy the benefits of a “real meal”, the German company Biozoon has developed a technology that creates textures changing the consistency of food. Pureed ingredients are forming a gel or paste that can be reshaped to resemble solid food that is easy to ingest. Furthermore, the meal can be customized to the demands of the individual patient. Future printers will be able to provide exact dosages of vitamins and proteins as needed by the patient, complementing the trend towards individual medication. Top class restaurants have also adopted additive manufacturing. For them it provides a “competitive advantage”, creating food designs distinct from other restaurants. The technology also helps to create forms and designs that need to be identical, thereby freeing up line cooks for more demanding tasks. Additive Manufacturing provides a precision in food design a human being cannot achieve. Bakery chains have started to use the technology to provide a product on demand without lengthy transportation processes and with the same design and quality in different outlets. Also, supermarkets are considering using 3D food printing to supply their customers with individually made food in their outlets. NASA is considering additive manufacturing as a replacement for prepackaged, frozen astronaut food, so that they could enjoy freshly made meals.
Experts are on the opinion that until 2050 the world food production will need to be increased by 50% to cope with population growth. Additive Manufacturing can make a positive contribution by using hydrocolloids or substances that form gels with water using algae, duckweed and grass as major ingredients for meals. In addition, the waste of food can be reduced. When processing fish a lot of cuts are left on their bone with which they are disposed of. Additive manufacturing can use these remainders to create appealing fish products and thereby save waste. Large food producers are also looking into the technology since it will speed up the innovation process. Food “prototypes” can be printed in minutes instead of molding them in weeks.