Making Printed Food More Palatable For Those Who Need It

Most foods when pureed become pretty unappetizing to look at. For that reason, patients who have trouble swallowing are often given pureed food that’s been molded into fun shapes to make it more appealing. The problem with molding food is that it’s labor-intensive, time-consuming, and the resulting edible toys require a lot of storage space.

When 3D printing came along, it was poised to solve the problem, but in the quest to make foods printable, they became even worse. Printable food paste typically starts with dehydrated and/or freeze-dried vegetables, and then hydrocolloids like xanthan gum and locust bean gum are added so the paste holds together after extrusion. Unfortunately, these additives are a big step backward; they change the texture for the worse, and make the food smell and taste bad, too.

The solution is one of those things that sounds obvious in hindsight: some researchers in Singapore tried using fresh and frozen foods instead of freeze-dried, and figured out the minimum amount of hydrocolloids they could get away with for a given food. In their research they categorized all the feasible foods this way. Some vegetables like garden peas which have higher starch and lower water percentages don’t need any hydrocolloids to be printable. As the starch level falls and water rises, more hydrocolloids are needed. So carrots can get away with using just one type of hydrocolloid, while things like bok choy need two types to print effectively. Even so, results of the study show that fresh vegetable printing calls for far less than their powdered counterparts to the extent that it no longer affects the taste of the end product.

The researchers envision a future where every hospital and elder care facility has a food printer to churn out carrot boats and spinach skylines on demand. We think this tasty development is totally awesome — it’s just too bad the carrot boats don’t look more like Benchy.

In the mood for printed food? Our own [Tom Nardi] sampled the menu of additive edibles a while back.

Thanks for the tantalizing tip, [Qes]!

Hackaday Podcast Ep17: Are Cheap Microcontrollers Worth It? Android On Your Bike. Plus Food Printers And Coffee Bots

Join editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams as they recount a week of fascinating hacks. We take a good look at the PMS150C, a microcontroller that literally costs pennies but can only be flashed once. SNES emulators have a new trick up their sleeves to make low-def a lot less low, and you retro enthusiasts will either hate or love the NES zapper chandelier. Elliot’s enamored by a bike computer running Android core, and both Mike and Elliot delve into the food hacking scene, be it meat, chocolate, coffee, or of course frosting!

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (72 MB of audio splendor)

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3D Printing Gets Cheesy

Has it ever crossed your mind that everything you see for sale–no matter how mundane–is someone’s life passion? Or, at least, their work passion. Somewhere as we speak two or three people are in a room trying to figure out how to make a whoopie cushion for two cents less than before. Someone is touting the virtues of the newest design in egg cartons. The guys that make the tube that carries your money to the bank teller at the drive through window? They exist, too.

It is natural for us to think about improving 3D printers but most of us print plastic. We might wish we could print metal. But researchers in a few places are printing cheese. We didn’t say hackers with the muchies, we said researchers. There’s a colorful slide show from the University College Cork in Ireland, for example. They printed cheese at two different speeds and used a laser scanning microscope and a rheometer to analyze the results. We’ve seen rheometers in plastic factories, but never in the kitchen. Meanwhile on the hacker front, apparently spray cheese cans work as an easy cold extruder (see video below).

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