VTT looks to 3D printing

12 May 2016

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland says it aims to develop advanced food manufacturing technologies by combining expertise in food, material science and 3D printing technology.

VTT looks to 3D printing

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland says it aims to develop advanced food manufacturing technologies by combining expertise in food, material science and 3D printing technology. Healthy snacks with great textures are in increasing demand among consumers, it notes, and researchers have the long-term vision of developing high-tech vending machines that provide customised purchases.

Today's consumer expects healthy, nutritious food with added elements such as design, pleasure and even playfulness, the researchers said, claiming that self-production would enable customisation in addition to these. 3D printing technology offers new opportunities to realise such expectations.

In its initial trials, VTT tested starch and cellulose-based materials for 3D food prototypes. It is also working on printability of protein concentrates of both plant (oat and faba bean) and dairy (whey protein) origin.

"However, a great deal of work is needed in order to proceed to industrial-scale production,” said says Nesli Sözer, Principal Scientist at VTT. “Equipment needs to be developed in addition to materials. Such equipment could be developed for domestic 3D food printing as well as vending machines."

Texture is an important driver of the taste perception of many food products, the scientists note, and is behind many successful innovations. Brands are creatively combining textures with features such as crispy inclusions, soft centres and extra-crunchy toppings. 3D printing technology will, believes VTT, enable the layer-by-layer manufacture of various structures, from crispy to soft gels that produce a distinctive mouth-feel.

The 3D food printing is an emerging and developing technology, with a great deal of active research ongoing.

A new Tekes-funded project coordinated by VTT in collaboration with the Aalto University targets 3D printing of multi-textural food structures in a techno-economically feasible and sustainable way. A specific aim of the partners is to create new ingredient mixes with suitable flow properties for 3D processing. According to VTT, the project will develop globally competitive expertise in 3D food printing technologies with subsequent technology innovations to be utilised by Finnish industries from various sectors such as ingredient, food processing, equipment manufacturing, software and online services and retail.

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