3D printers can be considered our modern day hero. Biomedical engineers at the University of Michigan used 3-D printing technology to create a custom-made implant that helped save the life of a newborn baby, Kaiba Gionfriddo, who was born with a condition that caused the airways in one of his lungs to collapse regularly, hence, the need for resuscitation on a daily basis. What they did was use a CT scan of the infant’s airways to design, print, and implant a tube sized to Kaiba’s tiny air passages. Sixteen months post-implantation, Kaiba, and not to mention his parents, are breathing easy, with no more need for emergency resuscitations or artificial assistance.
Recently, NASA awarded an Austin, Texas-based engineering firm with a $125,000 grant develop a printer that can devise edible food to feed astronauts in space. Think of Star Trek’s food replicator.
When I first heard about the news, I was just like WHAT!!! WHAT!!! WHAAAAT!!! So, imagine your couch potato self on a lazy Sunday (hopefully just on Sundays). It’s 2pm and you’re still in your PJs. The bathroom feels so distant and your cellphone in the next room is miles away. But hey, there’s the 3D printer staring at you right there. Pepperoni sausage with extra cheese pizza coming right up!
HOW IT WORKS
Here’s how 3D food printing works: injected with easily stored bulk ingredients like powdered carbohydrates, powdered proteins, and oils, the printer combines the ingredients and prints “objects” layer by layer, baking, shaping, and cooking them as it prints. With a pizza, the dough is mixed from the prepared powders and printed as a first layer, followed by a second layer of tomato sauce, and yet another layer of cheese, and so on. And in theory, these printed foods will be tasty and healthy, and can be tailored to meet precise nutritional needs and palates.
So there you have it – my Christmas list. But it’ll be ways away before it is fully developed and perhaps decades away from our personal enjoyment. I’ll just have to make another list for this Christmas.