Nutrition Meets Food Science

From Print to Plate: Concept of 3D printed food

With the onset of 3D printing now you can print your food with the desired texture, flavour, size, and even shape. If you wish for a pizza with your personalized nutritional needs, or chocolate in any geometric shape you can think of, 3D printing will precisely print that!

3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing. In simpler words, it creates an object by building layers stacked on one another. A standard food printer consists of a computer, software, and a motor control box. Software like CAD (Computer-aided design) is used to create the design, once the design is ready it is processed through another software which creates a digital file with instructions to convert it into a series of thin layers. Material like edible paste, gels, and powders are used to print the chosen design. The material is then loaded into cartridges or syringes. Based on the instructions of the software, the motor control box through the nozzle dispenses the edible material layer by layer to create the 3D model. After printing, food can be cooled, heated, or dried for better texture or flavour (1,9).

There are many types of 3D printing: extrusion, inkjet printing, binder jetting, and powder bed melting through selective laser sintering. Extrusion is the most common method of 3D printing. It allows fresh or pre-processed ingredients such as dough, chocolate, meat substitutes, and vegetable pastes to be printed layer by layer until the desired 3D structure is formed. Inkjet printing works best with low-viscosity materials and is primarily used for 2D printing such as creating high-resolution images on cookies. Binder jetting and selective laser sintering work with powder-based materials like chocolate or protein powder. Here heat or liquid acts as a binding agent and combines the powder particles (2). Bioprinting is another technique used to make meat analogues by assembling different living animal cells that have been cultured in vitro. Suitable starter cells are isolated and cultivated to increase the biomass, which are further differentiated like muscle or fat cells. In other words, it’s real meat that has been cultured in the lab. Bioprinted meat enables manipulation of the meat characteristics, like increasing the marbling or reducing the fat content (3).

Many companies are using this modern technology to transform the way food is prepared and eaten. ‘Natural Machines’, the manufacturer of 3D printer, Foodini uses fresh produce to craft exquisite dishes with precision. ‘BeeHex’ and ‘Bocusini’ help bakers and pastry chefs as they create beautiful results with cookies, cakes, and other confectionary decorations (4). A 3D printer that can print cookies has been designed and manufactured by researchers at the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT), Thanjavur. The ingredients for these cookies included ajwain seeds, green gram, fried gram, and millets. The same team that printed cookies also made printable material out of egg yolk and egg white (5). 3D printing is making waves in the culinary world too with numerous restaurants like ‘FoodInk’ and ‘Sushi Singularity’ are using this technology to create a unique dining experience for their customers.

3D printing is not limited to just enhancing the aesthetics of food, it has many other advantages. Many times, patients or elder people who have trouble swallowing consume fewer calories. They are more likely to suffer from malnourishment since the process of preparing the mixture for texture modification includes dilution with water or other liquids. Fortified liquids and purees, like those high in protein to boost nutritional density, can be used to make food inks for 3D printing. Personalized nutrition is another area in which 3D food printing technology is used. Foods can be created to fulfill specific nutritional needs based on a person’s nutritional status, lifestyle, and dietary preferences. Specialized food industries, like military food, are also interested in using 3D printing technology. The primary benefits of 3D printing in the military are improved satisfaction and morale and improved soldier performance through appropriately meeting individual needs (6). NASA is developing a system to increase the nutrient content in shelf-stable foods, as dried or prepackaged foods decay over time. The system involves storing micronutrients as dry powders and using 3D printing to provide astronauts with nutritious food for long-duration space missions (7).

Although 3D printing offers numerous benefits, it does have some limitations.  Very few ingredients can currently be used with food printing. As the technology is still in its early stages of development, it has not yet been fully adopted by industries due to high production costs. There are no national or international mandatory standards for 3D-printed foods, which can lead to confusion and potential health risks. Food safety issues with 3D food printing may arise as the process involves heating during extrusion and cooling after deposition or reheating of the food which can facilitate the growth of microorganisms (8, 2). With research and development on this technology, it can overcome the challenges and can be used more widely.

In conclusion, as 3D printing continues to evolve, it promises to change the way we think about food production and consumption. Whether its by creating intricate designs or catering to the nutrition requirements of an individual the opportunity for 3D printing to grow is truly boundless.


  1. Waseem M. et al, (2024) Printing the future of food: The physics perspective on 3D food printing, (
  2. Zhu W. et al, (2023) Three-Dimensional Printing of Foods: A Critical Review of the Present State in Healthcare Applications, and Potential Risks and Benefits, (
  6. Caulier S. et al. (2020) An exploratory consumer study of 3D printed food perception in a real-life military setting (
  8. Lee J. (2021) A 3D Food Printing Process for the New Normal Era: A Review (
  9. Gokhare V G. et al, (2017) A Review paper on 3D-Printing Aspects and Various Processes Used in the 3D-Printing (

Ms. Sanyukta Telange

Technical Assistant, PFNDAI

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