The “Foodini,” as it’s called, isn’t too different from a regular 3D printer, but instead of printing with plastics, it deploys edible ingredients squeezed out of stainless steel capsules.
The Barcelona-based startup is showing off the machine at the Web Summit technology conference in Dublin.
It says is the only one of its kind capable of printing a wide range of dishes, from sweet to savoury.
“It’s the same technology,” says Lynette Kucsma, co-founder of Natural Machines, “but with plastics there’s just one melting point, whereas with food it’s different temperatures, consistencies and textures. Also, gravity works a little bit against us, as food doesn’t hold the shape as well as plastic.”
Natural Machines points out that it’s designed to take care only of the difficult and time-consuming parts of food preparation that discourage people from cooking at home, and that it promotes healthy eating by requiring fresh ingredients prepared before printing.
The company is working with major food manufacturers to create pre-packaged plastic capsules that can just be loaded into the machine to make food, even though they assure these will be free of preservatives, with a shelf life limited to five days.
The printing process is slow, but faster than regular 3D printing. Other than being capable of creating complex designs, such as very detailed cake decorations or food arranged in unusual shapes, the Foodini can be useful for recipes that require precision and dexterity, like homemade pizza or filled pasta.
The device at the moment only prints the food, which must be then cooked as usual. But a future model will also cook the preparation and produce it ready to eat.
The company is completing a round of financing and plans to begin mass manufacturing in the second half of next year.