Campden BRI conducting study on 3D printing in the food industry

Campden BRI, a food and drink research organization based in the UK, has revealed it is conducting a study examining the capabilities and limitations of 3D printing technology with various types of food materials.

The project will help to provide an independent evaluation of 3D printing in the food industry through analysis, development, and practical trials of 3D printed food to determine the benefits and challenges. Moreover, Campden BRI is aiming to develop its own 3D printing capabilities with the analysis.

Initially beginning in September 2018, the research project is lead by Gael Delamare, an ingredient research scientist at Campden BRI, and will proceed for a year, concluding in September 2019. Explaining the objectives of the project, Delamare has said:

“The project will explore the challenges and potential of its application in the food industry. We’ll be reviewing the 3D-printing technologies, conducting practical trials and developing new personalised products in terms of shape, flavour, colour and nutrition.”

3D printing food based on your specific nutritional requirements

Campden BRI was founded in 1919, initially as an arm of Bristol University, and has since expanded its research to cover all areas of food processing and preservation. The company provides the food and drink industry with research services to ensure product safety, quality and process efficiency, as well new innovations, like 3D printing.

With its analysis of the technology, Campden BRI’s research will assess which food materials and shapes can be 3D printed and the speed and efficiency of the process, as well as the practical aspects and challenges of 3D printed food like cleaning and maintaining the systems. Delamare adds that “There are many factors to consider such as shelf-life, microbiological contamination, printing temperature, textures, rheology and ultimately whether different foodstuffs even lend themselves to being printed.”

“All of these issues need to be catered for in order to meet the expectations of the consumer and to do so safely.”

The study will focus on paste-type materials, which includes chocolate, vegetable/meat purees, cream, cakes and biscuits. Campden BRI is conducting the study due to 3D printing’s ability to manufacture certain structures in the food that are not achievable with conventional food technology processes.

The research team will use an X-ray micro-CT scanner to scan different food designs and explore the potential structures that can be 3D printed. It hopes to demonstrate new applications in the food industry for 3D printing, including personalized nutrition catered to the dietary requirements of certain health issues and specific consumer groups. Furthermore, in order to improve the quality of 3D printed products, Campden BRI will modify the rheological properties (the consistency and flow) of the food.

“3D-printing may also have benefits for reducing process development and NPD times,” Delamare commented. “Food waste could also be reduced as perishable products, which would otherwise decline in quality, could be printed on demand.”

Campden BRI researcher Gael Delamare. Photo via Campden BRI.
Campden BRI researcher Gael Delamare. Photo via Campden BRI.

The cherry on top of the 3D printed cake

With Campden BRI’s study, the food industry will hopefully be provided with an objective evaluation of 3D printing’s viability within the food industry, which is still riddled with obstacles and drawbacks. Despite this, several companies have made attempts at 3D printing food and bringing it into the market with some benefits. For example, Open Meals, a Japanese digital food company, is offering 3D printed artistic sushi that is catered to each customer’s biodata using their biological samples. Spanish bioengineering startup NovaMeat has also developed a synthetic, 3D printed steak which mimics the texture of beef or chicken without using actual meat, catered towards vegetarians.

In order to overcome the limitations of 3D food printers, scientists from Columbia University have developed a new method to 3D print cooked food, which can combine different ingredients and cook each of them selectively. This allows potential “new flavor profiles and inventive food recipes that would be more challenging to achieve using conventional cooking methods,” according to the researchers.

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Featured image shows food material processed through a 3D printer. Screengrab via Campden BRI.