This 3-D Food Printer Could Totally Change The Way We Eat

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embed3Photo: Courtesy of Natural Machines.
In sunny Barcelona, a group of girl geeks at a startup called Natural Machines are mastering the art of printing food. Foodini, the company’s Kickstarter-funded 3-D food printer scheduled to hit the market in early 2015, prints food into shapes, just like industrial 3-D printers that make custom parts for jets and prototypes for toys.

Future owners will choose a digitized recipe on Foodini’s touch screen (or enter their own), load Foodini’s various toothpaste-tube-size “capsules” with ingredients — much like piping icing on a cake — and the microwave-sized machine will print an oven-ready dish, designed with what appears to be master chef-like skills.

This all may sound more like the Jetsons than farm-to-table, but the Foodini is not about prepackaged, processed foods crammed with chemicals and preservatives. We Skyped with Foodini co-founder Lynette Kucsma to learn about what she and team Foodini are cooking up for the future.

Why print food?
The Foodini makes foods like homemade pastas, pretzels, chocolates and crackers in your kitchen without complicated steps and a lot less mess. Compare Foodini to being a mini-manufacturing plant in your kitchen, assembling pre-packaged-like food, but using fresh ingredients you source yourself.

What are some of Foodini’s specialties?
The Foodini prints ravioli, gnocchi, burgers (veggie and meat), chicken nuggets (and chickpea nuggets), quiche, pizza, hash browns, cookies, and more. We’re adding to the menu all the time.
embed2Photo: Courtesy of Natural Machines.
What’s your favorite recipe?
Lately I’m really enjoying spicy fish crackers. When I crave a savory snack, this hits the spot. And, since I know exactly what they’re made from (potatoes, olive oil, corn flour, spices and salt), I have zero guilt about about eating them.

Does the printing process enhance the food’s flavor?
It’s not a magic machine, so you must put good-tasting, fresh ingredients in to get good-tasting food out. But, know that the Foodini doesn’t cook food — yet. We’re working on a future Foodini that will fully cook what it prints.

Can you walk us through a basic recipe?
Let's use a ravioli as an example. The user would make the dough and make a filling. Foodini will tell the user to put raw dough in capsule one, and filling in capsule two. The user follows the instructions, presses print, and the Foodini takes over. It prints the individual ravioli: first the base dough layers, then the filling layers, and another topping of dough. Then the user simply removes the freshly made ravioli from the Foodini and tosses them in boiling water as you would to cook any pre-packaged ravioli.

Why else is Foodini worth our future counter space?
Beautifully designed, printed food is one of Foodini’s specialties. Recently we printed tomato sauce and basil “leaves” to decorate delicious pumpkin gnocchi. Honeycomb or flower shapes made of crystallized sugar make beautiful, edible dessert-plate dividers. For a kid’s birthday party, you can print the child’s face on the cookie surface and customize the cookie shape, or write their friends’ names on chocolates as placeholders for the tables.
embed1Photo: Courtesy of Natural Machines.
If the Foodini takes off, will it change how we all eat?
Too many people eat unhealthy, pre-processed foods or packaged meals, because they don’t have enough time or skills to make homemade foods from scratch. By 3-D printing food, you can automate some of the most labor-intensive steps, making it easier to create fresh and healthy meals. And, people with dietary restrictions can make fresh versions of food that exclude allergens. And, artistic food presentation could become the norm!

How do you explain 3-D food printing to technophobes?
We relate it to the days of the microwave. When the microwave first started coming out in the 1970s, people were afraid of it. But, fast-forward 40 years and 90% of the households have microwaves in the kitchen. And as history shows, a product’s convenience, good design, and effectiveness always wins over the skeptics in time.

When will the Foodini be ready for consumers’ kitchens?
Our first production run should be going out this October for our early supporters (at a discount price $999). We expect to have a larger production run for online orders and to outside distributors by January 2015. If all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to find Foodini on the shelves of top retailers worldwide (for $1300) in just a few short years.

Foodini’s Kickstarter only has a few days left! Take a leap into the culinary future and become a backer today!