NASA's 3D Printed Food: How Does Anjan Contractor Plan To Print Pizza? [VIDEO]

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 21, 2013 3:58 PM EDT

pizza
NASA is researching 3D printed food. The space agency has given Anjan Contractor $125,000 to make 3D printed pizza, which will presumably not look anywhere near as delicious as this pizza. (Photo: Flickr: nwongpr)

NASA is funding research into 3D-printed food, and they're starting with a pizza printer.

Anjan Contractor, a mechanical engineer and founder of Systems & Materials Research Corporation, has received $125,000 from NASA to print 3D foods, a technology that the space agency plans to use to feed astronauts on long journeys.

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Contractor's 3D food printer prototype is based on the open-source RepRap printer. In a similar spirit, Contractor will make his software open-source as well.

The software will include "recipes" that tell the 3D printer how to mix powdered and liquid ingredients, and in which order to print the food layers. Eventually something resembling a pizza emerges, but it's something that probably tastes much, much worse.

The pizza sounds especially gross when you consider the toppings: insects, algae and grass, instead of traditional proteins.

"I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can't supply 12 billion people sufficiently," says Contractor, who sees uses for 3D food printers that go beyond space travel. "So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food."

Contractor also believes the ingredients for 3D-printed food -- the cartridges -- will have an extremely long shelf life.

"Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life," says Contractor. "The way we are working on it is, all the carbs, proteins and macro and micro nutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out, and in that form it will last maybe 30 years."

Contractor also say that like traditional food recipes, users could tailor open-source recipes to their liking. They could do this not only for reasons of taste, but to make sure they're getting the best nutrition for their body type.

"One of the major advantage of a 3D printer is that it provides personalized nutrition," says Contractor. "If you're male, female, someone is sick-they all have different dietary needs. If you can program your needs into a 3D printer, it can print exactly the nutrients that person requires."

Food is only the latest item to roll off of the 3D printing press. Recent innovations have included a fully functional 3D-printed gun and even a 3D-printed invisibility cloak.

Watch below to see how the 3D food printing process works.

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