TNO is a contract research organization based in the Netherlands with an in-house 3D printing department.
Prototype pasta printer
Speaking at the 3D Food Printing Conference, in Venlo, the Netherlands, this week (April 12) Bommel said the main difference between printing food and non-food in 3D was that food was more complex, unlike PLA (polylactic acid).
“With food like chocolate if it’s printed at the wrong temperature, it won’t taste like the real thing. The properties are not consistent,” he said.
“A cookie is a foam, like a sponge, we can’t 3D print that, because it has a variety of thick and thin walls.
“We asked ourselves how can we mimic the structure, and approximate the same flavor in your mouth with another type of design, which will have a different shelf life.
“It gives us a new way of thinking about food and what the texture should be like and how to create texture, to create structures in a certain way.”
Bommel said TNO recently worked with Barilla and debuted a prototype pasta printer with them at EXPO2015 in Milan, capable of printing three-dimensional (3D) pasta shapes.
The printer, which is not yet commercially available, prints classical recipes with durum wheat semolina and water at four shapes every two minutes.
TNO sees a role for 3D food-printing in both the short and longer term to develop products that cannot be made using other methods or to change the formula, shape, structure or texture of existing products so the taste experience remains the same yet the salt or sugar content is reduced.
“Food can be customized so it fits the needs and preferences of individuals (like elite sportsmen, people with specific dietary needs or have difficulty swallowing) with respect to content, form, shape and taste,” added Bommel.
“The 3D technology can also transform alternative ingredients like proteins from algae, beet leaves or insects into tasty products with recognizable structures that are good for health and the environment.”
Creating textures is TNO’s main research project at the moment added Bommel, for example, a hamburger and a steak are both the same kind of material, but one is processed to a mix which is made into a burger with a different taste experience,.
“Texture is crucial to create a wide variety of food products,” said Bommel.
Other projects include experimenting with an elastic moulus - E-modulus that looks like a honeycomb-type structure for printing cookie dough in porous structures.
“The porosity is not exact so we are going to experiment with this again. We want to try more complex designs, and we are working on baking stable recipes to see how to fit those into mechanical models. We are also working with soy protein,” he said.
“Looking at the next generation food printers they need to be multi-material, multi-scale, FDM will not be able to tackle all future techniques, we want to be able to control everything from textural properties, to baking and shelf life.
“Manufacturers are looking for speed, its always about being faster, faster, faster, there is a big demand for that, also hygienic design of food grades and user friendliness of machines so it becomes more accessible to clients.
“There may be new printing technologies people haven’t thought of yet.”