NASA is funding research into 3D-printed food. Mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor received a $125,000 grant from the agency to build a prototype 3D printer with the aim of automating food creation. It’s hoped the system could provide astronauts food during long-distance space travel, but its creator has the loftier aim of solving the increasing food shortages around the world by cutting down on waste. The software for the printer will be open-source, while the hardware is based on the open-source RepRap Mendel 3D printer.
The concept is to use basic “building blocks” of food in replaceable powder cartridges. By combining each block, a wide range of foods should be able to be created by the printer. The cartridges will have a lifespan of 30 years, more than long enough to enable long-distance space travel. After proving his system works on a basic level by printing chocolate, Contractor will start his project within the next few weeks by attempting to print a pizza.
As Quartz reveals, the pizza printer will first print a layer of dough, which will be cooked while being printed, before mixing tomato powder with water and oil to print a tomato sauce. The topping for the pizza will be a nondescript “protein layer.” It’s early days for the project, but if it’s successful it would be a real milestone on the way towards a Star Trek-style Replicator.