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A day in the life - Food in the Future: 3D printing

For Science Week, Teagasc Walsh Scholar Ricardo Uribe Alvarez introduces his project on 3D Dairy. In Teagasc Moorepark, we’re looking at using dairy ingredients to make 3D printed dairy snacks.

3D printing is a process of building solid objects layer by layer of any material capable of fusing and forming stable, self-supporting structures. 3D printing has been in use since the 70s, but has recently come to the fore in industries such as construction, aerospace, automotive, biomedical, and electronics. Instead of ink, these printers can use plastic concrete and even metal.

But what about food? Foods with a paste-like consistency (‘viscoelastic foods’) can also be used in 3D printing. Some food products that have been successfully printed due to their viscoelastic properties include dough, chocolate, mashed potato, cheese, and meat paste.

Here in Teagasc Moorepark, we’re looking at using dairy ingredients to make 3D printed dairy snacks. This project, funded by the Department of Food, Agriculture and the Marine, will use the proteins from milk to provide the essential properties required to build 3D objects. Milk proteins are also leading sources of high-quality protein in the human diet. Therefore, we can design snacks using dairy ingredients that have high protein content in tailored amounts for specific consumer groups.

3D printing has many benefits in both nutrition and sustainability. 3D food will allow us to design food with the optimal macro and micronutrients required to match the dietary requirements of individuals, such as children, athletes, elderly and expectant mothers. We can control the texture of a food, to make it easier to eat, which is especially important for people with chewing or swallowing difficulties. Food scientists have used 3D food printing to encourage children to eat healthy foods, by printing snacks in the shapes of cartoon characters or fun shapes. Finally as we look to more sustainable food production, 3D food printing can help in reducing food waste, as it only prints the quantities of the raw materials that are required to build the food structure.

Join Teagasc for a series of exciting virtual events for Science Week (November 8-15) as part of ‘The Festival of Farming and Food – SFI Science Week at Teagasc’. The core theme for Science Week 2020 is ‘Science Week - Choosing our Future’ focusing on how science can improve our lives in the future, and in the present. This will explore how science can help us to make positive choices that will impact the environment, our health, and our quality of life. Changes based in scientific evidence that we make today can hugely improve our future life, but also right now. Join our events on Zoom and get a chance to put your questions to our scientists in our live Q&As. Click here to register.

We’d love to hear from you. Be part of The Festival of Farming and Food journey on Social Media:

@Teagasc @ScienceWeek #FestFarmFood #BelieveInScience #ScienceWeek