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Surprising Science

Digital Cooking: 3-D Food Printers

Researchers at the Cornell Creative Machines Lab are experimenting with 3-D food printers, envisioning them as the next fashionable appliance for restaurants and home kitchens. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers at the Cornell Creative Machines Lab are experimenting with 3-D food printers which, using edible “inks” and digital blueprints, can make precise, novel treats, from perfectly shaped Austrian sugar cookies to scallops shaped liked space shuttles. “The technology is nascent, and so far only produces raw food, but ‘it is conceivable that a printer would also cook the material as it prints,’ said Hod Lipson, head of the Cornell lab.” The ingredients so far have mostly been soft foods such as pesto, cheese and chocolate. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Beyond how a 3-D printer might affect the culinary world, scientists believe the new technology can help introduce children to a healthy diet early in life. “If you gave kids peas that didn’t look like peas and said they were a space shuttle, they’re much more apt to eat them because it’s now playtime,” said Hod Lipson, head of the Cornell Lab. “It’s a way of introducing nutrition to kids, sort of through trickery.” The printing technology could also enable downloadable menus, making a well-known chef’s recipe available at home, on the spot.

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