Currently exploited applications in 3D food printing regard content customization, shape customization, rapid prototyping, rapid tooling and bio-printing. About content customization, Foodini by Natural Machines is a commercial printer using hot melt extrusion to print pizza, hamburgers and cookies with several ingredients (Sun, Peng, et al. 2015). Burritobot can prepare customized burritos extruding beans paste and a choice of Mexican sauces (Pallottino et al. 2016). The new XYZprinting solution can print personalized cookies and the TillYouStop project by Mischer’traxler customizes cakes decoration (Sher, 2015). Ink Jet printing presents solutions for people with mastication problems in the PERFORMANCE project by Biozoon Food Innovation, where the usage of flours derived from insects as alternative ingredients allows preparing cookies and other kind of meals (Sher, 2015). One of the first and oldest AM applications is CandyFab, which in 2006 has been starting producing candies through sintered sugar with added flavours. Dovetailed can print fruit using the Photo-polymerization technology (Sher, 2015). Even defence and space sectors and flight industry are starting experimenting customized printed meals on remote sites for their personnel working under special and stressful conditions (Sher, 2015).
Shape customization introduces new complex geometrical shapes and textures, either not possible or very difficult and expensive to obtain with traditional methods. Chocolate is the main used ingredient by Cornucopia’s Digital Chocolatier prototype and commercial Choc Edge’s ChocCreator, 3DSystem’s ChefJet, EssentialDynamics’ Imagine3Dprinter (Sun et al. 2015). Barilla has presented a 3D printer, realized by TNO, able to print special formats of pasta (Pallottino et al. 2016a). It prints with a very low rate which is 4 pieces every 2 minutes and then it is not suitable for the industrial production lines. However, it can find application at home or in future, in some restaurants or pasta maker shops. Anyway, an environmental studio is needed about the energetic consumption of the system to produce the right quantity of product in the right time. Other commercial examples of shape customizations are: MakerBot’s Replicator for cookies, DeGrood Innovations’ FoodJet for cookies and bench-top food paste shaping, 3DSystems’ CocoJet consumers’ printer and the RIG’s FoodForm 3D robot able to print ice cream of various shapes (Sun et al. 2015).
Typical industrial AM applications, such as Rapid Prototyping (RP) and Rapid Tooling (RT) (Sisca, Angioletti, et al. n.d.) can also be applied to food sector. AM as RT is used primarily for mould printing to serve the production line for speeding up mass customization process. Moulds have to be made of food-safe Class VI FDA-approved material and reproduce complex and personalized shapes, like scanned customers’ faces and bodies. This enables rapid customization industrial production at low cost, since moulds can also be reused for next orders (Halmes & Pierreu n.d.). RP applications of AM may produce edible prototypes to be used as visual aids of new food products and receipts for design and pre-production studies. They can be used for presentation and taste trials for customers and buyers in marketing meeting and commercial fairs, or directly destined to consumers in public events. Moreover, not just food products, but also industrial ones can be rapid prototyped with edible and organic ingredients, as chocolate, instead of materials with higher environmental footprint and difficult to recycle.
The edible prototypes can both be presented to clients and eaten when their functional role ends or they can be given to users as gift that they can taste, instead of throwing away after the event (Godoi et al., 2016). This reduces waste of inorganic materials and even advanced samples can be consumed, eventually by animals, if not suitable for humans anymore or re-processed and re-used for new prototypes. AM prototyping can use both edible fresh ingredients and food scraps as source ingredients for the AM process. This can also enable biological re-flow thus accelerating the creation of circular systems (Angioletti & Sisca, 2016).