FEATURE: Liven up presentation with 3D printing

If you wish to add a highly personal touch to your guests’ breakfast you may like to think about investing in a 3D printer. The technology has been advancing rapidly in recent years and, as it has done so, its use has extended to food. Bill Lumley reports.

You may not have heard of 3D food printers. In fact, demand is picking up among guesthouses and hotels for the technology, especially at the luxury end of the scale for hospitality venues including Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury B&Bs that stage events such as weddings, according to Melanie Senger at 3D printing manufacturer Procusini.

It is at the latter kind of event that the machines come into their own with the ability for example to  print out  3D  food in the shape of and image of the wedding couple themselves, she says. If you learn upon your guests’ arrival that they are staying to celebrate their wedding anniversary, for example, you could decorate their breakfast plate with a personalised and commemorative snack.

But the machines can also be used to produce edible items for all moments of the day at a B&B. “One popular example at the moment is choco images, which can be put for example of cappuccino with hollows that can be filled in with cream,” she says.

The unit does not take a large amount of space, around the size of a commercial microwave oven, she says.

DECORATIVE FOOD

It can produce food in a certain shape, and for example using butter and jam a B&B  could print its logo or flowers to decorate the breakfast plate.

“It is really easy to print a drag and play system which comes with the printer itself,” Senger says. “They can print choco or marzi- pan, but they can use any other ingredients such as butter, sausage, jam or cream cheese.

“Everything is online, and they do not need to do any complicated programming. They can do it online and send a good orning message via wi-fi to the 3D printer.”

If you have a jpg of a logo you upload it and the image for the 3D printer is created online, for example, she says.

“People can choose butter – provided it is not too hot – and can set the corresponding printing speed. But if they have liver paté or spreadable sausage, it may be necessary to run it through a sieve to avoid lumps, other- wise the surface finish will not come out in   a desirable format,” she explains. You can choose to print 3D food using butter, pasta or potato puree, for example.

“Text messages or names, little objects for different occasions or customer branding can be easily created without any previous knowledge,” she adds.

The latest generation of the 3D food printing system is ideal for catering and event gastronomy facilitates small batch series production and new foods that can be 3D modelled, she says.

This raises exciting opportunities for professionals from gastronomy and catering to individually and creatively shape foods.

“It is easy to print a drag and play system which comes with the printer itself,” she explains. “The machines can print choco or marzipan, but they can use any other ingre- dients such as butter, sausage, jam or cream cheese. Everything is online, and they do not need to do any programming. They can do it online and send a good morning message via Wi-Fi to the printer.”

NATURAL MACHINES

Another European manufacturer of 3D food printing machines is Natural Machines, a participant of the EIT Food Smart Breakfast project, which examines new food products for innovative home appliances.

Co-founder and CEO of the Barcelona based company Lynette  Kucsma  tells Luxury Bed & Breakfast magazine: “Breakfast gives you a chance to start the day with a customised, tasty, healthy and nutritious meal, so you can perform better during the day. As suggested by nutritionist, breakfast may vary from stage in live, but in general, breakfast is essential to get the ‘first shoot’ of energy for the day.

“As time is usually limited, a tasty, fresh, nutritious, convenient and quick breakfast gives the flexibility to support this important meal during the day. The combinations of smart appliances and healthy ingredients that enable the nutritious, quick and flexible breakfast would have an impact on consumer’s lifestyle.”

The RisingFoodStars Association serves as an umbrella association for high potential agrifood start-ups. It is a partner of EIT Food and allows as such its members to participate on equal terms in all EIT Food activities. The RisingFoodStars are involved in key communications and key events of EIT Food and thus contribute to EIT Food’s strategic objectives.

Natural Machines was launched about five years ago. A friend of Kucsma had a vegan bakery nearby in Barcelona. “She started to expand internationally, but it became prohibitively costly for reasons of packaging and shipping rather than labour or ingredients,” she says.

“We began to come up with ideas on ways to undertake local food processing with 3D food printing, which is not really that strange a concept. If you eat anything from a food manufacturer for instance you are practically eating 3D printed food,” she says.

PROCESSED FOOD

“If you are eating any processed, packaged, pre-made food, you’re pretty much eating food that is extruded. After all, extruded food is mainly food that is forced through machinery and shaped. That’s what a food manufacturing facility does; that’s what Foodini, our 3D food printer, does.”

In a food-processing factory, the food might be extruded in a slightly different way. Food is pressed, shaped, formed, and extruded through machines, she explains.

“Having a Foodini is like have a mini-food manufacturing appliance in your kitchen,  on your countertop. Except here’s the big difference: with Foodini, you can print with fresh, real, wholesome ingredients, as Food- ini ships with empty food capsules. That’s a big difference versus manufactured foods that have additives, preservatives, chemical sounding ingredient names, and too much salt, oil and sugar.

“So, we already are eating extruded food,   if you eat any type of packaged, processed food. The “jump” to eating extruded 3D print- ed food isn’t really as big as one might think. Instead of a jump, it’s more of a step.

“From the first day that we started Natural Machines we built Foodini to be a food appli- ance. It has therefore been created specifically to work with food. It’s made from food- grade/safe materials. But we also designed it to be a sleek kitchen appliance to fit and be  at home in any kitchen,” she says.

She is adamant the machine is not a cumbersome addition to a commercial kitchen. “As a co-founder of Natural Machines, I’m  one of the few people to have a Foodini in  my home kitchen. And it’s a galley kitchen, so it is small. If Foodini works in a small kitchen, it can work in any sized kitchen,” she insists.

For those that don’t get it, and want to be in-the-know, she presents a very brief, sim- ple description of the concept of 3D printing. “Imagine a regular printer that prints ink on  a sheet of paper. Now imagine that piece of paper gets stuck in your printer, and it keeps printing the word ‘hello’ over and over and over again, building up layer after layer, until you end up with ‘hello’ in 3D.

“This wouldn’t happen in an ink jet printer with normal ink, but it will certainly occur in a 3D printer with plastic as the ink, as used for the hello in this picture. It will also happen with food in a 3D food printer,” she explains.

The technology is  unsurprisingly  not cheap, with units typically selling for between £2,000 and £4,000. But bearing in mind their efficiency, long term savings on food waste, and the fact that opportunities are growing fast for the production of unique food pres- entation, you may consider equipping your kitchen with such a machine.