News September 2017

Researchers make attractive food using 3D printing

Since a couple of years back it is possible to print food using a 3D printer. RISE runs several ongoing research projects involving 3D printing and food. The main aim is to make attractive and customized food for the aging population.

– To ”print food” is sometimes perceived as futuristic and maybe a bit weird. But it is not like we put anything strange in a machine that converts it into food. We use normal food purees which the printer shapes into 3D forms. It works a lot like an automatic sprits, says Evelina Höglund, researcher at RISE Agrifood and Bioscience.

She works with 3D printing in two projects addressing the challenge of creating attractive and personally adapted food for older adults who suffer from chewing and swallowing difficulties.

Broccoli puree becomes broccoli bouquet

– It will be possible for the older adults to be served more visually attractive and varied foods than a bowl of puree or other consistency adapted foods. The 3D printing process can make broccoli puree hold the shape of a broccoli bouquet, chicken puree look like a chicken breast file etc. Also, new flavor experiences may be realized. Building the product from the bottom up facilitates the making of filled products, like roulades for example, and it is easier to locate flavor components. It is also possible to finish off with a different food surface, says Evelina Höglund.

The flexibility of the 3D printing process makes it suitable for automated production of personally adapted foods. But the researchers need to solve several challenges such as keeping shape stability through freezing and heating of the printed foods.

3D printing gives new possibilities

3D printers have been available since the 1980s, but were not used in the food sector until around 2007. Nowadays 3D printers are used to print various products, such as skin cells and airplane parts. In the industry they talk about additive manufacturing, and it is expected to revolutionize industrial production and associated business models.

– 3D printing will not replace conventional mass production in the food industry, but can become an important complement in applications where it adds value, says Evelina Höglund.

3D printing offers some advantages in comparison with traditional production since it costs no more to manufacture ten products that are all different to ten products that are all the same. It is possible to make spare parts and tools on demand, lighter constructions with reduced material use and to shape individualized products such as prostheses. A pastry cook who makes handmade edible 3D decorations, involving working costs of 1000s of crones per cake, could benefit from the automated and faster printing, according to Evelina Höglund.

Berries are suitable for Printing

Printer manufacturers have focused on the confectionary sector, to provide customized bakery decoration made of for example jelly and chocolate. A research project at RISE Agrifood and Bioscience includes a case study on the suitability of 3D printing for making healthy snacks based on unsweetened strawberries.

– Berries contain a lot of health promoting compounds and are suitable as healthy snacks. And berry purees are adaptable ingredients for 3D printing, says Evelina Höglund.

The projects addressing attractive food for older adults are partly financed by Vinnova. “MAT för äldre” is a joint project between RISE, Findus, Helsingborgs kommun, Electrolux, Högskolan Kristianstad, Addema and Lunds Tekniska Högskola. In the project “GoIndependent” RISE works together with Findus, Helsingborgs kommun, Fujita Health University, Matsumoto Dental University och Food Care.

The project involving healthy snacks, EcoBerries, is financed by Formas and carried out together with several universities and institutes in Europe.

Contact:

Evelina Höglund, researcher at RISE Agrifood and Bioscience, evelina.hoglund@ri.se, +46 10-516 66 19
Mats Stading, researcher and section manager at RISE Agrifood and Bioscience, mats.stading@ri.se, +46 10-516 66 37