Natural Machines Foodini
Natural Machines, a Barcelona-based company, has introduced a new 3D food printer named the Foodini. While the underlying technology of the Natural Machines Foodini is almost the same as any other 3D printer out there, this printer has a different purpose. Unlike regular 3D printers, it does not take plastic, ceramic or clay as a raw material. Rather, it accepts edible ingredients as the input and squeezes them inside stainless steel capsules. In the process, it has to overcome several challenges like different temperatures, different textures and lack of consistency. There’s another challenge which may not come to mind, which is gravity. While usual printing ingredients like plastic hold their shape, food ingredients won’t do that. Foodini faces all these challenges and still provides excellent outputs.
The Foodini was first displayed in the Web Summit Technology Conference in November 2014. Natural Machines claims this is the first and only existing food printer that can prepare a variety of dishes. Its co-founder, Lynette Kucsma, likes to call the machine an oven-sized mini food processing plant. At this point, the printer is mainly targeted at professional chefs and expert kitchen users. They plan to release a consumer version later, with a potential price range of $1,300. Foodini aims to make the lengthy, difficult parts of food processing easier and encourages people to cook. As the printer requires fresh ingredients, it will also promote healthy eating practices.
Natural Machines is working closely with several leading food manufacturers to develop ready-made plastic capsules. These capsules can be used to make instant foods with the printer. Along with being free of preservatives, the capsules will have a lifespan of only five days. While the printing process is slow, it is still faster than the traditional 3D printers. Besides preparing complex foods, Foodini can also be used to prepare precise recipes like filled pasta or decorated pizza. The current model prints food which needs to be cooked afterwards. A future model is expected to both print and cook the foods, which will be ready to eat instantly.
The touchscreen panel on the front will provide a social aspect for the Foodini. The device can be connected to a recipe site and you can share your recipes with other users. The printer can be controlled through a smart phone as well. The device is designed in such a way that the moving parts are not directly visible. Along with providing a polished and sleek look, this also helps in ensuring that the food is properly placed. You can easily clean the inner part and walls of the machine with a sponge or a damp cloth. Various parts of the capsule body, like the nozzle, will come apart for an easier cleaning process. The glass plate and the capsules can be hand-washed or put in a dishwasher. The stainless steel capsules can be easily re-used.
As the Foodini was always meant to be a food printer, all of its ingredients are food-grade and safe. Unlike most other food printers, this machine uses fresh food to prepare delicate items. Most regular food printers also focus on a few specific ingredients like sugar, chocolate, etc., but Foodini uses an open capsule method. The machine can accommodate up to five capsules, therefore, you will enjoy the facility of using unlimited types of ingredients, allowing you to experiment with different tastes. The ingredients can be prepared by hand or with the help of blenders or food processors. The texture of the food should have a consistency for better output. For example, food that is too watery will drop out of the capsule; while too hard of ingredients can block the nozzle. When the device becomes commercially available, Natural Machines will publish some sample recipes that will give you an idea about the ideal textures. Once you become familiar with the basics, you can explore different textures and other variations.
Natural Machines follows a philosophy of simplifying the cooking process, therefore, it automates the complex parts and leaves the basic, easy parts for us. However, it is also possible to prepare an entire meal in the Foodini as long as the ingredients are supported by the device. The food printing speed depends on the quantity, ingredients and recipe. Flatter foods like crackers and simpler decorations will be printed within minutes, while foods with delicate structures or intricate details will take more time. And naturally, quantity will play a role too. The thickness of the food layers depend on the food types. The company has tested nozzles up to 1.5mm, which is a moderate number in terms of food thickness.
Natural Machines wants to play a dominant role in the advancement of 3D food printing by contributing more in the research and development sectors of this field. As Foodini will be connected to the internet, the company will be able to provide its customers with the latest technologies and innovations, which would be a great delight for 3D food enthusiasts. Their wonderful creation, the Foodini, is the top pick on our list of iReviews 2015 best 3D food printers.
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