Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Make Room In Your Kitchen For A Food Printer

Fab@Home, an open-source personal fabricator project out of Cornell, is developing machines that can print food.

Fab@Home

Photo: Hodlipson (via the Fab@Home wiki)

The Fab@Home printer can make many objects out of liquids and pastes - including food!

Where: Your kitchen.

When: The not so distant future.

Scenario: You’ve been out and about all day, and just want to relax, but the office party is tomorrow and you signed up to bring dessert. Earlier that week you had downloaded a delicious cookie recipe which will work – except that Bob in accounting is allergic to nuts. No matter. You walk over to your Fab@Home printer, load the proper syringes, adjust the settings to leave out the nuts, and press a button. In no time all your food is ready – prepared, fully cooked, and just how you want it.

This may sound like science fiction, but the Fab@Home team is making printable food a reality.

Fab@Home – A Food Printer

Fab@Home’s name is derived from its mission. Fab is a shortened version of the word fabber (or fabrication device), and as the group’s goal is to make these devices portable, affordable, and part of every household, the “at Home” inclusion in their name is fitting.

Two models of Fab@Home printers are already in action where they’re being developed at Cornell, and they work similarly to a 3D printer or even an inkjet printer. In an ink jet printer, a signal from the computer instructs the ink cartridges to move side to side along a roller and dispense extremely small, very precise drops of ink onto a piece of paper. When all of the tiny drops of ink combine, they form a larger image.

In the same way, the Fab@Home printer uses syringes in the place of ink cartridges and can dispense any material that is of a certain liquid state. A signal from a computer tells the printer how much of each material to use and where to place it, and then heaters, dryers, and coolers in the printer make the printed object solid.

Hors_d'Oeuvres

Photo: Emalone (via Fab@Home wiki)

A closeup of a successful unit of chevre (goat cheese) with spiced pear jam deposited on a cracker by the Fab@Home printer.

The French Culinary Institute is already developing Fab@Home recipes, and a second printer is on its way to the New York City Culinary School. Chefs David Arnold and Nils Noren also have contributed recipes, and Fab@Home hopes that many more chefs will create meals for the printer.

Additionally, Fab@Home says that the printers can be integrated with other applications to provide maximum personalized nutrition. It describes this scenario on its website:

After the sun rises and the alarm clock chimes, you roll out of bed to be greeted by a freshly printed breakfast from the dining app that syncs with your alarm clock. While at work, your pedometer tracks your fitness and energy expenditures, then coordinates with the dining app to portion your next Fab@Home printed meal, making diet and proper nutrition effortless.

Not Just Food

Anything that can be made into the proper paste or liquid form can be used by the Fab@Home printer, and their sample list includes silicone, epoxy, cheese, chocolate, cake frosting, ceramic clay, PlayDoh, and gypsum plaster. This means that a wide variety of objects can be printed in addition to food.

Fab@Home particularly cites replacement parts, customizable toys, and tools (even as complex as flashlights) as possibilities on their website, and their Wiki shows many more objects: chocolates, batteries, plastic bottles, toys, and even an iPod case.

Chocolates

Photo: Noya (via Fab@Home wiki)

Intricate chocolate printed by the Fab@Home.

Build Your Own!

Research for Fab@Home is centered at Cornell, but Fab@Home uses a diverse community of people to develop this open-source product. In fact, you can find the instructions for how to build one yourself on their wiki.

The total cost of parts for the newest model of the printer is currently around $1,300. However, Fab@Home anticipates that in the future this printer will be so affordable that it will be an integrated part of many people’s lives.

Printable Cookies

Want to get started today? Lakshmi Sandhana, a technology reporter for the BBC can help with this recipe for your new Fab@Home printer.

Ingredients:

  • 220 grams of unsalted butter
  • 110 grams icing sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 330 grams of flour
  • Vital kit: 3D food printer, cooker, freezer

Method:

  1. Mix the butter until fluffy.
  2. Slowly add icing sugar in batches of no more than 20 grams (0.7 ounces).
  3. Add egg yolks one at a time.
  4. Add flavor and color additives as desired.
  5. Add flour in 6.6 grams(0.23 ounces) batches until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Print cookies using a Fab@Home 3D printer in desired shape.
  7. Freeze for one hour for dough to firm up before baking.
  8. Initially bake at 200 C (400 F) to allow the cookies to set; once they start to brown, shift to 175 C (350 F) until golden.
  9. Store extra dough in moisture tight container to maintain print-ability.

Read More:

  • Fab@Home: The open-source personal fabricator project (Fab@Home)
  • Fab@Home Wiki (Fab@Home)
  • The Printed Future of Christmas Dinner (The BBC)
Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

View all posts by this author »

  • Bill-bishop

    Just read about 3D printers in the Economist mag. and admit that I left that experience feeling somrwhat skeptical after aborbing the breathless enhtusiasm of the article. You article makes it clear that this is a very big deal with relevance to food and a whole more.As a Cornell, I want to say “Way to go big red”

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Earth Eats:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Search Earth Eats

Earth Eats on Twitter

Earth Eats on Flickr

Harvest Public Media