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Can 3D printing help us produce more, and waste less, food?

PA’s Philip Fawcus, innovation expert, discusses 3D printing food in The Grocer.

The article looks at whether 3D printing can be put to practical use in the food sector or whether it will always be seen as a novelty. 

The article goes on to say that there are many companies making tentative use of 3D food printing such as when making pastries, yet it hasn’t yet reached mass production scale. 

Phil explains that a couple of years ago, some of the 3D printing of food, such as chocolate, could be created for decoration but not a whole chocolate bar at that point. Similarly top-end chefs would use 3D printers to pump purée on plates but it was all low-volume, relatively nice and niche work.

The article goes on to say that PA has been working to make 3D food printing a more commercially viable proposition. Philip explains: “We want to use standard production lines that our clients have and make it happen at high throughput. Something like decorating a piece of food may take a minute to do, but that’s not the speed at which our clients work when making food products - they’re working much faster than that. So what we’re looking at is different print and laydown technologies that can do that much quicker.”

Philip explains that the first thing PA did when exploring 3D printing was something called ‘additive manufacturing’ - laying down different flavours or fragrances on to a food, for example a jet of chocolate on a basic biscuit. “The next level might be to print a layer of chocolate at very high speed on to that biscuit, and that’s where we could do bespoke shapes or patterns,” says Phil. “The third level would be to somehow print that biscuit and then the chocolate on top of it.”

Philip concludes by saying: “Understanding what the benefit of 3D printing is to the food industry is half the problem. What food manufacturers might want to do is provide customisation and personalisation.”

Read this article in The Grocer

Contact the manufacturing process innovation team


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