Dinner is printed, darling...
Next up was Dr Hod Lipson from Columbia University, who said 3D food printing was still in its infancy when it comes to food, but could prove hugely influential as food is the one thing that consumers actually 'manufacture' in their homes, unlike pretty much every other consumer product.
And what is particularly exciting is the ability of the technology to deliver mass customization, or “infinite variety, on demand” without increasing costs or requiring specialist skills, something unique in the food industry, or indeed any industry, he explained.
It also offers the promise of “extensive nutritional control” by enabling end users to create customized meals and products at the touch of a button, he added.
“The potential will be using its unique capabilities to do something new, something that we can’t do now. To make things that would be impossible to fabricate using conventional technology.”
Prices, meanwhile, have dropped from tens of thousands to less than a thousand dollars for 3D printing machines, and we can now print with everything from pasta and cheese, to chocolate, sugar paste, cookie dough and chickpeas, he said.
As for the new skills needed to design complex 3D objects, it may be that in future, with advances in artificial intelligence, we can simply tell our computers what we need, and get them to figure out how to do it, he said.
"I think that food printing might just be the killer app for 3D printers that no one could forsee."