The 3D printing food technique is one of the fun implementations of technology that adds to the diverse capabilities of additive manufacturing. NASA is taking the technology even further by researching the possibilities of 3D printing food in space. The project aims to overcome the problems that face astronauts in facilitating meals and food recipes especially for long missions.
The project consists of two phases under the contract of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and was awarded to a “Systems and Materials Research Consultancy” in Austin, Texas. The company is researching the development of a process that provides 3D printing food technique to be used during the different space missions. The project may require several years to go to the testing stage in phase II of the research.
Currently, there are obstacles to facilitate the best food system to the space missions. As space research in this area develops, former technology becomes obsolete and cannot meet new problems which need to be solved. Along with the increased number of space missions and research on sending astronauts for long missions, two factors face the current food supply system:
- The food refrigeration consumes the spacecraft power and resources
- The current food is prepackaged which adds storage units in the spacecraft’s limited space
- The astronauts do not have the option to personalize their recipes or prepare the food themselves, which may have a negative impact on nutrition and food diversity on long missions.
NASA is funding the first phase of the project with $125,000, which is planned to take around six months. The 3D printing food technology should solve many of the above problems as it will achieve the following:
- Save the spacecraft power and resources by excluding the freezing process
- Save space inside the spacecraft
- Provide a variety of food recipes in the form of ingredients, which gives the crew the chance to personalize their meals and prepare themselves
- Reduce the time and waste to the minimum level
- Provide different food flavors for the crew to choose from
On the same context, the company that researched developing 3D printed food in space has also taken the technology further by providing 3D printed pizza for the astronauts in space. The video below shows an example of how a 3D print pizza slice that can be applied in space crafts.
NASA has already started research on the usage of 3D printing technology in space and its implications in different parts of the industry. The results are promising and we can expect more development for 3D printing in space over the next few years.
The initiations by NASA and other companies indicate the importance of 3D printing technology and how it can be used to solve many of the problems faced by current technologies.