NASA has announced that it is funding research into 3D-printed food. Mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor recently received a $125,000 grant from NASA to build a prototype 3D printer with a goal of automating food creation.
NASA’s interest in a 3D food printer is obvious. The space agency hopes that such a system could provide astronauts food during long distance space travel, but the printer’s creator has a much loftier goal of helping to solve increasing world food shortages by cutting down on waste.
Software for the 3D food printer will be open-source, and the hardware is based on the open-source RepRap Mendel 3D printer.
The concept behind the 3D food printer involves using basic “building blocks” of food in replaceable powder cartridges. By combining each block, a wide range of foods should be able to be created by the printer. The cartridges will also have an incredible lifespan of 30 years, which is more than sufficient for long distance space travel.
Contractor will first prove that his system works on a basic level by printing chocolate, then he will begin his project in the next few weeks by attempting to print a pizza.
The printer will first print a layer of dough, which will be cooked while being printed. Then it will mix tomato powder with water and oil to print a tomato sauce. The pizza topping is to be a nondescript “protein layer”.