3D printing has always seemed to me one of those futuristic technologies too far removed from the realms of everyday life to actually be viable. I’d be outright lying if I claimed to have a solid understanding of how the process works, but from what I can tell it involves formulating a computer aided design, pressing print, and then watching your three-dimensional creation take shape.
Thankfully, for those of us who are less creatively inclined, you don’t even have to draw up the original design yourself. Sites such as Thingverse and Pinshape have literally thousands of 3D print files that are free for users to download and use to their hearts content. Everything from visual spectacles, such as figures and ornaments, to more practical creations such as phone cases and fully functional musical instruments. So long as you have the kit, you can go 3D printing crazy!
‘So long as you have the kit, you can go 3D printing crazy!’
In addition to this undeniably cool novelty of being able to print your own consumer goods, 3D printing is even getting to the stage that certain specialist 3D printers are able to make food.
Foodini, for instance is an upcoming open capsule model 3D printing device that is capable of printing virtually any foodstuff. All you do is prepare your ingredients, place them inside the device, and then you can relax as all the nitty gritty details of actually cooking the food are sorted for you. Again, this idea sounds cool if nothing else; who wouldn’t want to have their own personal mechanical chef in the kitchen? But the advantages of being able to 3D print food extend far beyond an improved quality of domesticated life. In fact, 3D food printers may offer a permanent solution to certain global food crises.
Traditionally prepared food is problematic in a number of ways. It takes up excessive amounts of space, is dependent on weather and climate, and is frequently wasted. As such, an ill-timed drought or food will often prove disastrous for secluded regions that rely on steady yields of locally farmed food.
Comparatively, 3D-printed foods are portable, nutritionally dense, and reliable. What’s more as the technology gets cheaper, so too does it become more viable as an option to combat malnutrition and hunger worldwide. Even the poorest people around the world will normally have access to rice, but this carbohydrate merely forms a singular part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. It is not sufficient to make up a person’s diet on its own. Nevertheless, there are millions of people across the world who live solely on a diet of rice. However, if we throw 3D printing into the mix, then a solution to this problem becomes clear. Through the advent of a mass produced dissolvable stock cube that is rich in nutrients and vitamins, malnutrition on a global scale could one day be a thing of the past.
‘3D-printed foods are portable, nutritionally dense, and reliable’
3D printing even has its potential benefits with regards to climate change. Roughly 18% of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock. However, companies such as Modern Meadow are working towards a future in which artificially created proteins, made through 3D printing, are the norm. Just imagine: artificial meat that has never been a part of any living animal. A lot of these ideas for 3D printing are still in their conceptual stages, and the technology – whilst always getting cheaper – isn’t quite at that consumer price point just yet. You won’t be finding a 3D food printer in your mate’s house anytime soon I imagine. But it is becoming increasingly clear to me that my initial view of 3D printing as a futuristic novelty was misled. Instead, now I see 3D printing as a well of potential just waiting to be tapped.