How 3D printed food will move from labs into the mainstream

A hip designer who has pioneered 3D printing in the realms of fashion and home furnishings predicts how "printed" food can be monetized and influence attitudes toward "ownership."

Yes, we've been covering 3D printing across countless industries. Recently, we've been looking at how this type of manufacturing will apply to food: consider  Christina Hernandez Sherwood's feature on juice bottles and other food packaging. (We've been following this emerging trend for a couple of years: see  Joe McKendrick's reporting on food "printing" research at Cornell University.) Yes, 3D printing food is happening in labs and at startups . But I wondered, are hip designers who have long played with 3D printing also playing with their food -- to really creative results?

This past week, the online design magazine Dezeen featured a fun interview with a pioneer in both 3D printing and in product design: Janne Kyttanen, of the stylish Dutch collective Freedom of Creation. I remember seeing 3D printed bowls by Freedom of Creation at the Milan Furniture Fair way back in 2006. Kyttanen has some worthwhile opinions on 3D printing food:

  • Whether 3D printed food takes off depends on "what kind of financial push you have....If you can’t find a good business model for it, it won’t happen. Like chocolate...people have been printing chocolate for years but there hasn’t really been any boost in it. Maybe they haven’t found the right business model."
  • Novelty items will be the way to go -- at least at first -- as a way to monetize "printed" food. "I can imagine getting your own head scanned and then printed as a chocolate cake," Kyttanen said. Or edible versions of products, like Nike sneakers, for promotional events.
  • The design industry might learn from the food industry once 3D printing of edible products takes off. Kyttanen believes that food design, in the form of free online recipes, is a nice example of how attitudes toward intellectual property ownership might be opening up. Soon, the popular notion of "owning" any design might loosen up, potentially relaxing IP laws -- if 3D printed food indeed becomes a mass practice.

Image: Freedom of Creation/Flickr

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