IIFPT Thanjavur Scientists Develop & Showcase Food 3D Printing Technology

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Food 3D Printing

Above: Researchers from IIFPT 3D print a nutritious snack/Image Credit: IIFPT Thanjavur

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT), Thanjavur, have developed and fabricated a Food 3D printer which can 3D print cookies. These cookies were made from millets, green gram, fried gram and ajwain seeds.

The food 3D printing process takes around five to seven minutes and is followed by a post-processing technique involving a microwave drying process. The researchers also studied the nutritional value of the food to analyse the potential of customising the food according to nutritional requirements of an individual.  

According to Dr. C. Anandharamakrishnan, Director of IIFPT and corresponding author of the paper published in the Food and Bioprocess Technology, “The printer is approximately the size of a mixie, weighing below 8 kg and can be carried around. It was also indigenously developed and completely fabricated in India. This brings down the cost to less than Rs.75,000, while most printers in the market are expensive and cannot be conveniently used for multi-material food printing applications.”

Food 3D Printing

One of the main aspect of 3D printing is the use of raw materials. It is noted that materials will play a major role in the proliferation of the 3D printing technology.

In this food 3D printer, the materials were millets, green gram & fried gram and ajwain seeds. All these materials were hot-air dried, then ground to a fine powder particles. It was then sieved to about 0.2mm. Then spices, salt and distilled water was added to the mixture and stirred into a paste. This was the final material to be fed to the food 3D printer.

Several trial & error trials ensured that all the parameters like temperature, printer nozzle size, speed, flow rate, etc. were appropriately determined. For post-processing, the 3D printed food tried deep frying, hot air drying and microwave drying and found that the latter was the most efficient method.

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Food Customisation

Lastly, the 3D printed cookies were analysed for its colour, texture and taste. They also found that the snack had high protein and fibre content.

Speaking about the food customisation, Dr. C. Anandharamakrishnan said, “We can customise the nutrient content according to the need of the person. We tried this at a local school where we printed in shapes loved by children so that we can give them high nutrient food.”

What’s Next for Food 3D Printing?

Researchers believe that their new development still has a long way to go ahead as food 3D printing is at a nascent stage in India and it is pretty complex to 3D print food. As of now, this is not a solution to any food crisis or help altering the food manufacturing process. But probably one day this method can be used at the International Space Station or any such environment so as to eliminate the wastage of food due to spoiling or excessive preparation.

In addition to 3D printing of cookies, the same team had also created a 3D printable material from egg yolk and egg white and studied its material characteristics, and optimised the printing conditions. This work was published in the Journal of Food Engineering.

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