Scientists 3D print insects and mix them with vegetables to help solve the food crisis

(Photo: Singapore University of Technology and Design.)

The key to solving future food supply problems could be 3D printing!

A team of researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) aims to provide a solution to solve food supply problems through the use of 3D printing.

Does that mean they will print any food through a machine? Not exactly. Instead, they’ll print something weird – bugs!

3D printing

(Photo: Singapore University of Technology and Design.)

3D printing of an alternative protein

The researchers decided to improve the flavor of widely consumed vegetables like carrots by mixing them with 3D-printed insects.

For many people, the appearance and flavor of these alternative proteins can be unsettling. But according to Chua Chee Kai, co-author of the study and professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, this is where the adaptability of 3D food printing rises to the challenge by transforming the way foods are presented and by overcoming consumer inhibitions.

As Azom first pointed out, it is difficult to combine different edible inks and optimize them for food 3D printing. Trial and error is the key method used to drive the process forward.

To facilitate the process, Professor Chua and his group collaborated with experts from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC).

Yi Zhang, the study’s lead researcher and professor at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, said in a statement:

Alternative proteins could become our main source of protein intake in the future. This study proposes a systematic engineering approach to optimize edible inks, thereby enabling easy creations and customizations of visually pleasing, flavorful, and nutritionally adequate foods fortified with alternative proteins..”

Read also: Scientists have made crispier chocolates using 3D printers

Adjusting Protein Ink compositions

The study team adjusted the protein ink compositions with three variables – carrot powder, protein, and xanthan gum – using the core composite design approach. Carrot powder helps give the created inks mechanical strength, as well as flavor, nutrition and color.

The team also experimented with various proteins, including sericin, soy, spirulina, crickets, and black soldier fly larvae. The optimized inks obtained the highest printability and the lowest syneresis after the experimentally generated inks were tested for printability and 3D syneresis.

According to Aakanksha Pant, corresponding author of the paper and research associate of SUTD, researchers can use a similar methodology to optimize 3DFP food inks that constitute complex multi-component food ingredients through the surface method approach of experience response.

3D printing has certainly progressed over the years. For example, a method for waste-free 3D printing of wood products of any shape has been developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

To do this, the researchers combined the DNA of a tree into the materials that their machine would 3D print. Users will get the same look and feel of wood products while receiving the exact size and measurements of the material.

With these experiments, 3D printing could prove important in solving more global problems in the future.

Related article: Contribution of 3D printing to several industries: can it solve today’s complex problems?

This article belongs to Tech Times

Written by Joaquin Victor Tacla

ⓒ 2022 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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