Speaking at the 3D Food Printing Conference in Venlo, the Netherlands, Dr Jennie Lord, national centre manager and technology translator, EPSRC CIM (Centre for Innovative Manufacturing for Food) said AM can revolutionize the way we distribute food across the planet and how to create novel textures and delivery mechanisms.
Other materials may exist in the future by adapting existing properties
EPSRC CIM is investigating innovations in food manufacturing as part of a £5.6m collaboration with Nottingham, Birmingham and Loughborough University.
“To bring around complex formulations that can be applied to 3D printing, we need a liquid that can solidify, but what other materials might exist in the future by adapting existing properties and those in the future to move forward and how can they be manipulated,” she said.
“We are looking at bypassing water inefficiency and moving to dry powder that can be reconstituted. We believe with AM, we address real industrial needs.”
Since November EPSRC held a number of workshops on product personalization and customization, looking at value-add, and what benefits AM can bring to the manufacturer and consumer.
AM is seen as cleaner, greener, it can reduce waste, and it looks at how the supply chain might be shaken up by this technology.
“There are more barriers unfortunately. This technology is in its extreme infancy, scale is the biggest blocker at the moment,” added Lord.
“We are working with the F&B industry to see how we can improve that.
Food is complex & the consumer is a complex being
“Food is complex and the consumer is a complex being, we all have different needs, some people have better digestive systems than others and how they process and break down food.
“We need to revise how the media is starting to put this idea into the consumers mind, the discussion about insects and algae, and what the consumer expects from that.”
EPSRC has partnered with KTN to develop the idea of AM and they are working on two projects; exploring the use of materials in AM and how to break down cellulose, for AM and using it in a morphis state to bring about different functionalities.
Bryan Hanley, specialist Agri Food, KTN, said at the conference, there is no point using 3D printing if other technology can do the same thing because it’s not doing anything new and ‘that’s the challenge for us’.
“3D printing does have value and there are potential advantages, but who is going to pay for it,” he added.
KTN is funded by HM Government Innovate UK and Business Innovation & Skills.
Cellulose as designer particles for food ingredients
Sonia Holland, PhD student, University of Nottingham, EPSRC CIM, said it was important to recognize the value of cellulose as designer particles for food ingredients.
“Cellulose are smaller scale microstructures as opposed to printing larger scale products you can eat directly,” she said.
“It already exists in food products, like bread sticks and biscuits. We want to see if we can recreate these, using cellulose as a building block instead.”
According to Holland, cellulose is built up of glucose units, and is an interesting molecule to work with in a hierarchical chain structure.
“It’s the most abundant polymer, its natural, and comes from plant cell walls. It’s non-toxic, there is no human enzyme to digest cellulose and it is not fermented by gut bacteria,” she added.
“The crystalline structure is difficult to dissolve. In terms of food production it is not exactly food safe but there are ways to make it soluble.”
Holland has been carrying out trials at Nottingham University on cellulose including Ball Milling to alter its properties, recrystallization, and binder jetting powder - building liquid binding material, as a layer-by-layer approach for a 3D model.