Instead of popping a cake in the oven, people may soon be able to pour cake batter in a 3D printer and watch the machine create the cake for them.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has come a long way since the early 1980s, when a tiny plastic cup became the first-ever 3D printed object. From then until now, the scope of 3D printing has expanded so much that even 3D food printers are available to the public.
A standard 3D printer lays down thousands of layers of plastic, metal powder or other such materials to match whatever design the user inputs.
At Pitt, there are three cutting-edge metal printers in the additive manufacturing lab and several less expensive plastic printers spread out around the rest of campus, which students and faculty can use for various projects or research. Because Pitt already made these investments into traditional 3D printers, the University doesn’t currently print food and has no plans to in the near future.
Minking Chyu, who works in Pitt’s additive manufacturing lab, is optimistic about the future of 3D printing, though he said the technology is still emerging.
Chyu, a professor in the Swanson School of Engineering, said the mass production of 3D printed food is currently not viable from an economic standpoint, citing the $331,000 price tag of a lab-grown burger prototype developed at Maastricht University in the Netherlands in 2013.
“There’s a long way to go. Currently, 3D printers — especially for industrial application — are dealing with low volume, high cost components,” Chyu said. Read More…