The 3D printing of food is certainly a futuristic concept, but it’s also something that, at this point, not too many people are all that excited about. Sure, it’s awesome for making customized candies like the ChefJet does, or for adding a bit of flair to a cake, but the idea of one day eating a 3D printed steak, or 3D printed pear, doesn’t seem that appealing just yet. Like anything though, if it tastes good, won’t kill you, and is relatively inexpensive, there will be people willing to try it, and eventually society may view such food as the norm, rather than the exception. We may not have to imagine much longer, what it would be like to bite into a 3D printed pear, apple or plum. That’s because a Cambridge, England company, founded just three years ago, called Dovetailed, has been working 3D print ‘fruit’. They have been able to accomplish this by using a technology which has been around for years, called spherification.Spherification is a molecular gastronomy technique in which liquids are shaped into tiny spheres, in one of two different ways. The process was originally discovered by Unilever in the 50’s, however it wasn’t until this last decade that the process began to be used within modern cuisine. One method can be used for shaping liquids which have a high calcium content like milk, while the other is perfect for liquids like fruit juice or puree, which contain little to no calcium. Although the exact process used by Dovetailed has not been revealed yet, it can be assumed that they are using the latter process. In this process, the liquid or puree from the fruit is mixed with a very small amount of a substance called sodium alginate, then quickly placed into a bowl of soluble calcium salt. At this point the liquid or puree forms tiny spheres, almost like caviar, in which a thin skin holds the shape of the liquid inside. What the 3D printer does is combine these little spheres of flavor with other spheres of the same or varying flavor, to form customized ‘fruits’, which can taste and look however the the user desires. “We have been thinking of making this for a while,” explained Vaiva Kalnikaitė, creative director and founder of Dovetailed. “It’s such an exciting time for us as an innovation lab. Our 3D fruit printer will open up new possibilities not only to professional chefs but also to our home kitchens, allowing us to enhance and expand our dining experiences. We hav re-invented the concept of fresh fruit on demand.” Dovetail claims that the printing process takes only seconds, and can be used to print apples, pears, or whatever other fruit the user desires. Further details on this amazing machine should emerge today as Dovetailed reveals the technology at an event in Cambridge called the ‘Tech Food Hack‘, which Microsoft has helped set up.
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