NASA backs 3D food printer to feed growing population

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With concerns about our ability to feed 12 billion people by the end of the century, one engineer is looking to replace conventional food with something produced by a 3D printer, and he’s getting a grant from NASA to create a prototype.

The $125,000 grant gives Anjan Contractor and his company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation, six months to create a prototype.

Contractor ultimately expects to see a 3D printer in every kitchen, replacing food with powder and oil cartridges loaded into a printer to create custom meals for an individual’s diet and nutritional needs.

The 3D printers could end food waste as Quartz reports cartridges would be shelf-stable for up to 30 years.

The immediate goal of the grant isn’t as far-reaching. NASA hopes the grant, under its Small Business Innovation Research program, will yield a product that will allow astronauts to print food during long space missions.

Video of Contractor’s chocolate printer, seen here, sets the foundation for his current concept, the “pizza printer.” The prototype will print the layers of a pizza, starting with the dough, and heat the food as it’s printed. Similar to other 3D printers, recipes can be shared as software with instructions telling the printer how much sugar, complex carbohydrate and protein to mix at each layer.

Contractor has competition in the “food of the future” category. A Missouri-based company is currently researching 3D bioprinters while a doctor in the Netherlands is testing the use of stem cells to grow your future meals.

Contractor says the current food system can’t meet a growing population’s needs and people must have an open mind.

“Eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food,” Contractor said.

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syracuse, NY  |  May, 24, 2013 at 06:15 AM

Is this a forerunner to the "food synthesizer" in "Star Trek"? Where meals are produced out of basis mateial. Could also be used to make other objects.

Gouda Lady    
Michigan  |  May, 24, 2013 at 06:29 AM

This is a good idea for places which have limited food supply; but don't look for it to replace real, healthy food. The nutrition from food that comes from your garden, from healthy, happy, grass-fed farm animals will NEVER be able to be reproduced by a machine.

Bea Elliott    
Florida  |  May, 24, 2013 at 09:52 AM

"Grass-fed farm animals" who have their throats slit are NOT "happy" by any stretch of anyone's imagination.

Texas  |  May, 24, 2013 at 10:49 PM

Y'all enjoy a thick, juicy ribeye on me, to celebrate this holiday weekend. EAT MORE BEEF!!!

Australia  |  May, 24, 2013 at 10:53 PM

Well what next printing babies ? Anybody who thinks this is an alternative to what we have eaten for most of history - a primal meat - vegetable based diet are trying to meddle with nature.3D printed food will require us to print some good 3D printed new body parts including the brain.We have more than enough resources to feed the population if we take on practices like Holistic management. Watch Allan Savory TED talk e.html

Helen Loretz    
Reno, NV  |  May, 26, 2013 at 01:15 PM

Read "Solient Green" it may be next.

Reality  |  May, 26, 2013 at 08:07 PM

You won't see me eating this s h i t!

UTAH USA  |  May, 27, 2013 at 02:45 PM

Since Agenda 21 only holds for 5 Billion people world wide, the need for MORE food it really necessary - any liberal /progressive can answer.