Fanny's own description of her project:
In my project I used three isolated faba bean fractions; protein, starch and fibre to create an edible bio ink. Different objects are printed layer by layer. 3D printing is a technology that ensures food products that are tailored to the consumers preferences as different formulations, shapes and sizes of the printed objects can be made
The 3D printing as such has been around for about 50 years, but it is only the last 10-15 years or so it has been discussed as an alternative within the food sector. Even if there are currently no or very few 3D printed foods available on the market, multiple companies are planning to launch their products, at least on a smaller scale, within the next few years. Examples include 3D printed plant based steaks and salmon.
3D printing is a technique that can be used to create personalized foods, both in terms of appearance and nutritional composition. For example, it can be used as a tool to create more appealing and appetizing meals for elderly with swallowing difficulties, such as a broccoli puree in the shape of broccoli or a chicken paté in the shape of a chicken drumstick.
Other benefits include the low waste and the possibility to combine materials and create textures otherwise difficult to obtain. Revo Foods, an Austrian company has created a vegan-smoked salmon by combining ingredients such as pea protein, algae extracts, and dietary fibres that are then 3D printed. Problems such as overfishing, destruction of the oceans and toxic heavy metals in seafood are overcome; in addition, landlocked Austria can have its own "salmon production".
Product development played a major part in Fanny’s project. In total, she created 51 different types of bio-ink with either different ratios of ingredients and/or pre-treatments. The bio-inks were evaluated on their printability and general appearance of the printed object. Freeze-drying was deemed the best drying method before further texture analysis. Twelve of the 51 different bio-inks were successful.
When 3D printing many criteria need to be taken into consideration… the texture of the inks and the machine parameters are the most critical criteria. The Bio-ink cannot be too stiff for printing, whilst it also needs to retain its shape after printing.
With it being such a novel technique multiple challenges need to be overcome before 3D printing of foods can be commercialised. Food safety can potentially be an issue, especially for usage by individuals on a smaller scale. Ink formulation can limit the ingredients possible to print and post-processing can sometimes be difficult without significantly affecting the shape of the printed object. In addition to this, the 3D printing process could add additional energy requirements for the production process.
For me, the most challenging thing when printing was to deal with the effect of so many different parameters simultaneously; ratios of ingredients, the different pre-treatments (which fraction to pre-treat, during how much time, at what temperature), the pressure, the size of the nozzle, the pre-flow, the infill pattern, the shape, the post-treatment…
There is always something that can be improved. With so many parameters, it is easy to get confused and difficult to decipher the effect of each individual and combined parameter. Strict results writing and reflection on results were necessary.
In addition, I had troubles with the printer numerous times, which generated a considerable waste of time and material