For the next six months, engineer Anjan Contractor will be embarking upon the adventure of a lifetime: creating a prototype for a universal food synthesizer, a.k.a. “the 3D food printer.” As a member of the Systems and Materials Research Corporation in Austin Texas, Contractor has been awarded a $125,000 grant from NASA to further develop the printer. Here’s how this over-the-top device would work: First, Contractor would devise a series of “cartridges,” each containing different types of proteins, carbohydrates, macro-nutrients, and micro-nutrients. The moisture would be extracted from each of these substances, and then the “cartridges,” free of all liquids, would be inserted into the actual food “printers.” After this, the preparation of the food (yes, it would be edible food!) would begin. Contractor believes that the “3D food printer” would work best for foods that have a few layers or levels of sophistication to them, for example, pizza. To make the base of the pizza, the dough layer would first be printed (and a heated plate sitting on the bottom of the printer would bake it to a desired temperature.) Secondly, a layer of tomato would be printed and then added to the dough. To finish the pizza pie, a protein layer would be placed over the top of the entire thing.
Although NASA initially contacted Contractor in the hopes of him creating something that would preserve food for elongated periods of time for astronauts, Contractor firmly believes that people on Earth, not just in space, could reap the benefits of this device. In fact, he states that the “3D food printer” could be one of the ways we end world hunger. “I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently,” Contractor told Quartz (a business news blog) “so we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.” The universal food synthesizer would most definitely change the way we perceive food. Can you imagine going to the grocery store, purchasing a cartridge of powder, and inserting it into your “3D food printer” for dinner?
I would be very interested in hearing how you feel about the development of this kind of a device. How do you think people would react if every time they went to the store, their options were limited to certain types of cartridges filled with powders? Is this a feasible approach to ending hunger, or do you think that the cost of constructing the printer and the cartridges themselves would be more expensive than simply buying regular food? Whatever your opinion is about this particular device, you do have to admit that the innovation and thought behind it is pretty cool. It will be exciting to see how NASA and the world reacts to Contractor’s completed prototype.
Unit Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,
Dicker, Ron. “3D Printed Food Could End World Hunger, Says “Universal Food Synthesizer”Anjan Contractor.” Huffington Post. 22 May 2013: Web. Huffington Post.com, Inc. 11 June 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/3d-food-hunger_n_3319696.html>
Harris, Jen. “3-D “Printer” Aims to End World Hunger Starting With Pizza.” LA Times. 21 May 2013: Web. Los Angeles Times. 11 June 2013.
Peckham, Matt. “NASA-Funded 3-D Food Printer: Could It End World Hunger?” Time. 24 May 2013: Web. Times Inc. 11 June 2013.