News of 3D printing has been ubiquitous as of late, and while the technology has been a disruptor in many markets, its applicability in the food industry is still questionable.
One food 3D printer, which sought funding on Kickstarter, is the Foodini; and although it separates itself from current food printers as it is able to print both sweet and savory foods, many have still questioned the viability of 3D printing food.
“We’re ruffling some feathers and gathering some interest,” says Lynette Kucsma, Natural Machines CMO and co-founder. “We get a ton of feedback both negative and positive,” she adds, explaining the range of emotions as vast, and the conversation lively.
After a quick look at the projects’ comment page on Kickstarter, this “range” becomes evident. In fact, more than one person donated a dollar just for the opportunity to comment on the project:
And while this particular backer became nauseated at the thought of 3D printing food, others had more positive (but equally histrionic!!!) reactions:
If anything, Foodini gives Joan the opportunity to look at herself in her toast every morning. Why wouldn’t you spend hundreds of dollars to do that?
Aside from debating the need for such an appliance (or jam “selfies”) the engineering behind the machine is actually quite impressive.
“With food, you are dealing with a lot of different textures and need a lot of intelligence built into the machine to accommodate them,” explains Kucsma. Because unlike printing simply sugar, the Foodini prints almost anything you could think of, from pizza to goldfish crackers.
Kucsma adds that with traditional 3D printers using plastic materials, there is a single melting point. However, with food, there are multiple temperatures, which posed as the projects biggest engineering challenge.
From a design perspective, it was a challenge to design Foodini to look nice in a kitchen. “We really wanted to create a kitchen appliance,” says Kucsma. “At the end of the day, it’s sitting in the kitchen as an appliance, so we designed it to look nice on counter tops.”
Another challenge has been working to change the perception of 3D printed food, a stigma Kucsma explains as similar to that which surrounded the microwave when it first emerged.
“When the microwave fist came out, it was very expensive and many people didn’t use it or understand it. Fast-forward 20 years and now 90% of households have microwaves,” she adds. “We see Foodini as a technology appliance except that we see the adoption period happening much faster, because the price of technology now drops a lot faster.”
The team admits that it is a high-priced kitchen appliance, but adds that it is on the lower side of the price scale for 3D printers, a price that is due in part to the availability of Kickstarter.com as a way to source funds.
“We just want to make sure we can develop it as fast as possible,” adds Kucsma.
Another of the most common reasons for turning to Kickstarter is to gauge the potential market for a product before investing money – and the market has spoken, leaving the Foodini nearly $20,000 short of its $100,000 goal.
What are your thoughts on 3D printing food? Do you think they will be as common as microwaves in the future? Share your thoughts by commenting below, tweeting me @melfass, or via email at Melissa.Fassbender@advantagemedia.com.