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Is it Safe to eat 3D Printed Food?

Is it Safe to eat 3D Printed Food?

Creating food products using additive manufacturing techniques is known as 3D food printing. The meal's shape, color, texture, flavor, and nutrition can all be changed, making it valuable in industries like space exploration and nutrition and wellness. 3D printing often called addictive production, turns digital data into three-dimensional things. Objects are built up one piece at a time, and 3D printers can quickly produce complicated designs. Aviation, packaging, construction, food, and pharmaceuticals are among the industries where the technology is used.

3D printing is currently under study in various areas in the food industry, such as personalized food designs, customized and digitalized nutrition, an excellent supply of food, and a more comprehensive range of food materials. Objects are built up one piece at a time, and 3D printers can swiftly produce complicated designs. The answer to this great question is that 3D-printed foods are safe but not completely safe due to some factors. This article addresses what 3D food printing is, types of food printed in 3D, how 3D food is created, and factors that make 3D printed food unsafe.

What Is 3D Food Printing All About?

In general, 3D printed food is a meal that has been made using an industrial additive process. As stated earlier, it is a creative method of making foods into different 3D shapes, simple or complex. Just imagine chocolate being extruded from a machine to food to form a mini house or a mini castle; isn’t that interesting?

3D printed food is just ordinary edible ingredients that have been prepared to be extruded via nozzles onto a surface. The final presentation is perhaps the most significant distinction from traditional meals: 3D food printing enables the construction of complicated, detailed structures and patterns that are either hard to replicate manually or would take a long time to do so.

How 3d Food Prints Are Created

Most 3D printers employ the same technology as ordinary 3D printers. They use a food-safe 3D printer filament to deposit it onto a construction plate based on models you design or download. Have you ever used a piping bag to ice a cupcake? Food printers function in a similar manner. They deposit edible filaments one layer at a time into your desired shapes, creating a 3-dimensional food design.

Benefits of 3D Food Printing

Here are some exciting benefits of 3D food printing for the nutrition sector:

1.    Ability to design what you want

If you already own a 3D printing machine, you know how satisfying it is to be able to create (nearly) anything. With 3D food printing, you may also have a lot of creative freedom in your output.

2.    Precision

3D printing food enables precision in nutrient diversity and the number of vitamins, minerals, and calories per meal. This might be especially useful in hospitals where limited diets are more frequent, allowing easy patient customization. It is now feasible to generate only the amounts that we require, when we require them, thanks to 3D printing.

3.    Accessibility

It might be as simple as sending a digital file over the internet to share recipes. Only the same raw ingredients, printing settings, and suitable printing equipment would be required.

4.    Unconventional food preparation

When you prepare healthy plants and protein-rich insects in a semi-liquid form, you can display them in a more appealing fashion, which will encourage people to eat them. Some plants or animal stuff can be crushed up and put into the printing powder, according to some people involved in 3D printed food.

Insects, for example, are high in protein yet are not considered food in certain civilizations. Some algae may be healthy and beneficial to include in the mix. When healthful powders can be incorporated into the food created, 3D printing outperforms traditional food manufacturing.

5.    Increased production speed

Compared to traditional production procedures such as injection molding, 3D printing is significantly faster. The technology allows for rapid prototyping of concepts and designs before they are used in the final product. Manufacturers can use 3D printing technology to market their products and gain customers before competing companies produce their final product.

 Disadvantages and Setbacks

Although 3D food printing is still gaining popularity and has been proven to improve the food sector with its unique benefits, it has certain disadvantages. Here are some of its drawbacks:

1.    Limited materials

While traditional product production technologies may employ a wide variety of materials, 3D printers are still limited in their ability to deal with most raw materials. Furthermore, most printable 3D materials are not recyclable, and just a handful are food-safe.

2.    Infringements against intellectual property rights

One of the most severe drawbacks of 3D printing is the infringement of intellectual property rights. Replication in 3D printing technology is rising as copyright holders struggle to safeguard their intellectual property and enterprises. Anyone with a blueprint for a product may readily duplicate it, making original things very hard to get.

3.    The cost of 3D printing equipment is relatively high

Machines and materials for 3D printing are expensive. Many people cannot use 3D printing because the initial money necessary to use the technology is prohibitively costly. Some firms choose to lease 3D printing equipment to save money. Others employ a 3D printing bureau, which provides third-party access to printing methods and materials.

3D Food Printing Techniques

●     Extrusion printing

It is a method of printing that is based on extrusion. Extrusion-based printing can be done in various ways, but they all utilize the same basic techniques. A typical three-axis stage with a computer-driven extrusion head serves as the surface on which food is printed.

This extrusion head uses pressurized air or squeezing to force food items through a nozzle. Depending on the type of food being extruded or the intended printing speed, the nozzles might vary (typically, the smaller the nozzle, the longer the food printing will take).

The extrusion head rotates along with the 3-axis platform while the food is extruded, printing the desired meal. Some printed foods require additional preparation before consumption, such as baking or frying.

●     Laser sintering with a selectivity

Powder-form food materials are heated and fused to produce a solid structure in selective laser sintering. The procedure is done by layer-by-layer bonding the powder bed with lasers as the heat source. After a layer has been completed and the desired locations have been bonded, a new unbonded layer of powder is applied.

The laser heats certain areas of this new unbonded layer to bind it to the structure. This technique is repeated vertically until the required food model is built. Unbonded material can be recycled after construction and used to print another meal model.

●      Inkjet printing

Surface filling and image ornamentation are both done using inkjet printing. Using gravity, edible food ink is dripped onto the food surface, which is usually a cookie, sweets, cake, or other sweets.

●     Binder jetting

Like selective laser sintering, Binder jetting employs powdered food items to build a model layer by layer. A fluid binder is utilized instead of heat to connect the ingredients. Following the bonding of the appropriate sections of a layer, a new layer of powder is put over the bonded layer to cover it completely. The new coating is then connected to the old layer in some places. The method is continued until the food model is completed.

Materials and Ingredients

The materials and ingredients for 3D food printing are generally safe, although some factors can reduce their safety levels. These ingredients are edible or can be consumed safely. However, the printing technology limits the kind of foods that can be printed. They are listed below

1.    Ingredients for extrusion-based printing

Extrusion-based printing uses soft components to extrude from a syringe/printhead and have a high enough viscosity to hold their form. Powdered substances (protein, sugar, etc.) are sometimes added to improve viscosity, such as when wheat is mixed with water to make a paste that may be printed. Materials that are naturally soft include:

  • Cheese
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Purée
  •  Jelly
  • Frosting

Certain solid substances, such as chocolate, can be employed by melting and then extruding them.

2.    Ingredients for selective laser sintering and binder jetting

These kinds of ingredients are in powdered form, they include:

  • Protein powder
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate powder

3.    Ingredients for inkjet printing

These ingredients are used for surface filling and are of low viscosity. They include:

  • Condiments (pizza, ketchup, hot sauce, mustard, etc.)
  • Food coloring ink

Sweet Pastries printed in 3D

Here are some examples of pastries and ingredients used for food printing generally:

●     Chocolate 3D Printing

Chocolate is ideal for 3D printing due to its inherent physical qualities.  It melts when it reaches a temperature of the body (37 degrees) and solidifies when it cools. As a result, creating bespoke chocolate treats is simple without compromising the chocolate's inherent flavor.

●     3D Printing Sugar

Sugar is a pliable substance that can be molded into various shapes and colors, and it can also be 3D printed.

●     Biscuits with custom 3D printing

Food Customers will be able to watch their personalized cookies being manufactured in front of their eyes thanks to 3D printing. Oreo opted to display 3D printers at the SXSW 2014 event in this manner, allowing the customers to choose the color of their Oreo cream.

Is 3D Printed Food Unsafe to Eat?

3D printed food is considered unsafe by some schools of thought because of the substances emitted during the production. 3D printers with high toxic gases emissions, especially those in confined environments, might emit carcinogenic particles or possibly poisonous fumes.

Organ damage, stomach, throat, nose, and eye discomfort are all possible side effects of these carcinogenic or toxic emissions.

Conclusion

3D printed foods are considered safe if printed with edible unharmful materials. Also, the environment used for the production should be safe. Investing in low particle emission food printers is also essential to ensure food safety. With these in place, 3D-printed foods are safe for consumption.

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