Dorothée Goffin's lab in Belgium is outfitted with 3-D printers and digital milling machines. It's also a kitchen. And, one day a week, the doors open to anyone who feels like walking in to mess around with the equipment. These days, the tech geeks, chefs, and curious folk that inhabit the lab are focused on 3-D printing. Instead of spouting plastic doodads, the printers exude chocolate.
Goffin is the director of the Smart Gastronomy Lab, supported by the University of Liège and a grant from Creative Wallonia. She and her colleagues aren't just playing with their food – they also want to figure out how to make 3-D printed foods more palatable to people. The goal, eventually, is to create foods with enhanced nutritional profiles that people actually want to eat.
"We will cook again like our grandmothers did, but using new technologies" that give healthier ingredients a more appetizing form, Goffin explains in a TEDx talk.
At a recent demonstration at the Expo Milano 2015 in Italy, Goffin, who has a doctorate in chemistry and bioindustry, demonstrated the chocolate printing in action. A syringe the size of a fork deposited "ink" – which was actually fancy Belgian chocolate infused with blue-green algae, a good source of protein — methodically across a printer board. Each drop of liquid was so miniscule, it was hard to tell they would eventually add up to something three dimensional.
The Smart Gastronomy Lab is certainly not alone in dedicating itself to deconstructing food into semi-liquids that can be jetted out of a 3-D printer. Just around the corner at the Expo Milano, Italian pasta giant Barilla and TNO, a Dutch independent research organization, revealed a printer that can ooze four noodles every 2 minutes. Hershey just released a commercially available chocolate printer. As The Salt has reported, a device called Foodini is meant to crank out things like dinosaur-shaped quiche. The U.S. Army has considered 3-D printing meals for soldiers. Modern Meadow, based in New York City, is working on producing meat that doesn't involve any actual animals.