As it becomes more accessible and mainstream, 3D printing is creating lots of opportunities for customising the things we buy, whether that’s adding the accessories we want to bikes or creating plates for DIY desktop robot kits. It’s not just products we can manufacture and customise with 3D printers, we can make food too and one company are working on bringing 3D food printing vending machines to the public.
We don’t generally go to vending machines for variety or nutrition, more often than not we use them out of necessity and the knowledge that they’ll contain familiar brands of chocolate, crisps, and biscuits. That said, we absolutely wouldn’t say no to the idea of vending machines that offered more varied and maybe even more nutritious food. The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland are working on vending machines that could offer just this.
VTT say that healthy snacks with great textures are in much higher demand these days and they think self-production through 3D printing would not only make it easier to meet these demands, but could allow for elements of customisation too. By using 3D printing vending machines, customers could choose the flavour of their snack and whether they’d like it to be chewy, crunchy, or soft.
The machines are currently in early trial stages and VTT are attempting to establish the printability of protein concentrates of both plant (oat and faba bean) and dairy (whey protein) origin, having already tested starch and cellulose-based materials. Vending machines are the long-term vision of the company, though they say that industrial-scale production is still a few years away yet. This is largely because, as well as creating materials with a good shelf life that can flow enough to be used in the printing process, the equipment for the venture also has to be developed.
In the meantime we’ll have to wait patiently, content in the knowledge that someone is working on making printable, customisable treats possible.