These days, it is straightforward for companies and consumers to stock up on printer ink and other similar supplies. By heading online, they can find all the items they need quickly and easily, and then all they have to do is place their orders and wait for the products to arrive at their doors.

Meanwhile, the range and sophistication of printing supplies is advancing all the time. Now, people can purchase high-tech creations such as wireless printers.

Feeling peckish?

One extraordinary development concerns the creation of a machine capable of ‘printing’ food. According to a report in the Daily Mail, Scientists at Cornell University in New York are in the process of developing a 3D food printer. The device uses raw ingredients that are stored in syringes.

Part of the university’s open-source Fab@home project, it enables users to insert food ‘inks’, load a recipe and then print. The printer deposits the food line by line and layer by layer according to an electronic blueprint. These blueprints determine what materials go where and they are created using computer-aided design software. The scientists working on the initiative refer to recipes as FabApps.

Get creative

According to the project leader Dr Jeffrey Ian Lipton, the device could enable people to put their own twist on recipes. He said: “FabApps would allow you to tweak your food’s taste, texture and other properties.” Providing an example, he added: “Maybe you really love biscuits, but want them extra flaky. You would change the slider and the recipe and the instructions would adjust accordingly.”

Currently, the inks are limited to substances that can be extruded from a syringe, such as liquid chocolate and cheese, and cake batter. However, the team is working on ways to transform other ingredients so they can be used in the printer too.

Potential

So far, the team have created edible treats including cakes, biscuits and ‘designer domes’ made from turkey meat.

However, the Daily Mail noted that the technology could represent a “breakthrough” in the world of fine dining. The publication suggested that it may mean a “whole new world of customisable menus and food”.

It referred to comments made by chefHomaro Cantu from Moto in Chicago, who has already printed sushi using an ink jet printer. He stated: “Imagine being able to essentially ‘grow’, ‘cook’ or prepare foods without the negative industrial impact – everything from fertilisers to saute pans and even packaging. The production chain requirements for food would nearly be eliminated.”

He also claimed that the technology could improve food production methods. On this topic, he remarked: “You can imagine a 3D printer making homemade apple pie without the need for farming the apples, fertilising, transporting, refrigerating, packaging, fabricating, cooking, serving and the need for all of the materials in these processes like cars, trucks, pans, coolers, etc.”

The chef went on to state: “3D printing will do for food what email and instant messaging did for communication.”

Even if the technology proves successful, it may be a long time however before consumers have access to it.

About the Author – Anna Longdin is a freelance blogger who has written widely on the subject of printing for a range of sites This piece was written using http://www.internet-ink.co.uk for research..