Researchers create gel 'ink' ingredients for 3D printing custom food

Researchers in Brazil and France have developed a new type of starch-based gel that can be used to 3D print food products, among other things, according to a newly published study. The idea of 3D printing food isn't new, but the technology is still relatively new and the researchers behind this study say their techniques open the door for customized products.

3D printing, more commonly called additive manufacturing when it comes to commercial products, can be extended to certain types of food — typically small candies and other simple things. The future for this technology is bright and it is conceivable that one day a larger variety of 3D printed foods will be possible, including ones customized with the specific textures, colors, and shapes the user desires.

New research from the University of São Paulo's Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture in partnership with researchers in France has detailed two techniques for transforming starch into substances that can be printed. The scientists focused on starch from cassava and wheat.

The gel 'ink' was first created using a method involving ozone bubbled into a water-starch mixture, which was then dried out. Tweaking the various factors, such as temperature and duration, resulted in different gel consistencies for different applications.

The firmer gels could be used for 3D printing food, as can the gels resulting from the second technique. The latest development involves using an oven to dry heat wheat and cassava starches, the result being gels with 'optimal printability.' The higher-quality gels pave the way for higher quality 3D printed foods with more desirable textures and definition, the researchers explain.