Thursday, May 30, 2013

3D Printer for Food being developed by SMRC for NASA - Just like the replicator from Star Trek

Pretty... cool.

Via Ideas, Inventions And Innovations, 21 May 2013 - Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC) proposes combining its Manufacturing Technology and Materials Science expertise to address NASA's Advanced Food System Technology needs.

Using progressive 3D printing and inkjet technologies, SMRC will design, build, and test a complete nutritional system for long duration missions beyond low earth orbit. The 3D printing component will deliver macronutrients (starch, protein, and fat), structure, and texture while the ink jet will deliver micronutrients, flavor, and smell.

SMRC will team with the food science program at North Carolina State University and International Flavors and Fragrances to ensure the production of nutritious and flavorful mission supplies. SMRC proposes producing synthetic food which meets the nutritional needs of each and every mission specialist and astronaut.

One of the first foods to be produced is expected to be a pizza

File:Pizza med gorgonzola, spinat og bacon, March 2010.jpg

Using unflavored macronutrients, such as protein, starch and fat, the sustenance portion of the diet can be rapidly produced in a variety of shapes and textures directly from the 3D printer (already warm). Since basic sustenance will not ensure the long term physical and mental health of the crew, this is where the microjetting will add value. In addition to adding flavor, low volume micronutrients will be added as the food is processed by the 3D printer.

The macronutrient feed stocks will be stored in dry sterile containers and fed directly to the printer. At the print head, these stocks will be combined with water or oil per a digital recipe to minimize waste and spoilage. Flavors and texture modifiers can also be added at this stage. This mixture is blended and extruded into the desired shape. The micronutrients and flavors are stored in sterile packs as liquids, aqueous solutions or dispersions. SMRC's approach not only addresses uniform long term storage, sustenance, and micro-nutrition, but also variable and changing dietary needs, variety, and boredom.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)

SMRC will develop a system that is targeted for long duration space missions. This system will include a micro- and macronutrient storage system, mixing system to formulate paste and a 3D dispensing system, where flavored and textured food will be prepared for astronauts. The storage system will provide maximum shelf life for the nutrients for the future space missions. The 3D printing system will provide hot and quick food in addition to personalized nutrition, flavor and taste. Such system can be modified and used during short duration space missions as well, which will eliminate nutrient storage system of the proposed 3D printed food system. The short duration food system will utilize various pastes prepared in advance to print appetizing flavored food. The biggest advantage of 3D printed food technology will be zero waste, which is essential in long-distance space missions.

Potential Non-NASA Applications

With the anticipated world population of 12 Billion by the end of the century, the current infrastructure of food production and supply will not be able to meet the demand of such a large population. The conventional technologies can only provide marginal efficiency, which is not enough in keeping food prices at affordable level for the population growth. By exploring and implementing technologies such as 3D printing, this may avoid food shortage, inflation, starvation, famine and even food wars.

In addition, US military can use 3D printed food system during many of their missions. 3D printed food system can reduce military logistics, disposal waste, increase operational efficiency and mission effectiveness especially during wartime. In addition to that, 3D printed food can provide optimal nutrient to the soldiers depending on their personal needs and level of physical activities. Submarines and aircraft carriers can effectively benefit from 3D printed food system, which may reduce their downtime to refill supplies and provide efficiency in executing their missions.

Sources:
NASA
Systems and Materials Research Consultancy

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