Yes, 3D printing is everywhere. The technology takes liquid forms of plastics, metals or other substances and prints them in solid form. The process is used to create numerous objects in myriad industries and professions. This versatility even applies to the food industry. A conference devoted entirely to 3D food printing took place recently in Melbourne, Australia. At the conference, Aarti Tobin—a chemist and food technology scientist—focused on ways 3D printing could possibly help make difficult-to-swallow foods more edible and palatable for people with dysphagia.
Foods that are challenging to swallow—or any food at all—can be pureed in their natural form, modified if needed and printed out as solids using this technology, according to an article on 3ders.org, which is a website devoted to 3D printing news and products. Potential advantages of printing modified foods include making them easier for people with dysphagia to consume and making them more visually appealing than, for example, a scoop of pureed meat.
The printing process renders previously risky foods, like steak or pizza, into the familiar appearance of solid food. Inside these printed foods, the texture can remain the optimum consistency for someone with a swallowing disorder. Preparers can also improve the nutritional quality of printed food using vitamins or other additives. Tobin is also working on ways to use various parts of a food—like meat—to create an enhanced product made completely from the food itself.
These types of 3D printed foods could also have applications for people with sensory issues or other eating restrictions.
Shelley D. Hutchins is content producer/editor for The ASHA Leader. firstname.lastname@example.org