3D-printed cheesecake using edible food inks, including peanut butter, Nutella, and strawberry jam. Credit: Jonathan Blutinger/Columbia Engineering
In this episode, we discuss a new 3D printing approach by researchers at Columbia University that allows for desserts - specifically cheesecake - to be created using a 3D printer. The technology enables the creation of intricate and customizable shapes for desserts, and could revolutionize the way desserts are made in the future.
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Hey folks, welcome back to the NextByte podcast. And do you love cheesecake? Or do you just love food? Did you watch the Spy Kids and go, one day I want to print my own food. Well then buckle up, because this is the episode where we get into it.
I'm Daniel, and I'm Farbod. And this is the NextByte Podcast. Every week, we explore interesting and impactful tech and engineering content from Wevolver.com and deliver it to you in bite sized episodes that are easy to understand, regardless of your background.
Farbod: Alright, folks, as you heard, in this episode, we're bringing together two of my big loves; additive manufacturing/material science and food. Before we get into it, though, I want to quickly talk about today's sponsor, and that's Mouser Electronics. You've heard us talk about Mouser before. Mouser is one of the world's biggest electronics distributors. And that means they have access to all the cool things happening in academia, all the cool things happening in industry. And sometimes they write articles talking about these things. The one I want to talk about today, it's called industry 4.0 with additive manufacturing, the gist of it is they're talking about what the next level of manufacturing evolution is going to look like. And they discuss additive manufacturing. And the way it applies to today's topic is we're talking about manufacturing food, right? Like today, if you want to buy a Twinkie, that Twinkie is, you know, that dough is made, it's baked and then the just cream and Twinkies. I mean, I haven't had a Twinkie. So, I'm just kind of like, you know, talk.
Daniel: Yeah, I think you're on the right track.
Farbod: Yeah, there's cream and a Twinkie. And then the cream was put in there. But as we move forward, who knows? Maybe we can do all that process in one go with an additive manufacturing process. Well, so that is a perfect segue for today's article. And that's gonna be honey, that 3d print. I mean, dessert is ready. Now in the last episode, Daniel got to talk about something that he was really interested in. So, in this episode, we're gonna switch gears and talk about something I'm really interested in.
Daniel: You know, you scratch my back, I scratch yours.
Farbod: Exactly. That's how we do things here at the NextByte. Know, friends, support friends, podcast ideas.
Daniel: Also, friends, don't let friends not listen to the NextByte too. Yes, remember that if you're listening to this, and you have friends, they should also be listening.
Farbod: Okay, so let's get into this today. The article for today. And it's coming from Columbia Engineering. And they're tackling this topic of food 3d printing. Now, if you're like interested in food science, you've probably seen like, there's all these cool things happening. We're talking about lab grown meat, like taking literally a cell from a cow and trying to grow a ribeye. Interesting. There's like plant-based alternatives for food. And there's, there's like, fish being grown like or like growing muscles, or like specific muscle types of different animals. And then there's like the 3d printing side, where after they've generated like, an X amount of what is kind of like meat fiber, they want to layer it and create the different muscles instead of growing it from scratch. So that's pretty interesting.
Daniel: But can I be honest, like, be honest, you're saying interesting. I see these things on my Instagram feed sometimes or like, I like looking at the research trying to see like, oh, it was my dream of like, craving a chocolate chip cookie, and then I just hit Ctrl + P on my computer. And then I have a printer 3d printed chocolate chip cookie fresh for me, is that dream coming true anytime soon? I gotta tell you right now, I don't think it is like this stuff.
Farbod: I don't think it is.
Daniel: I appreciate the technology. Before looking at the stuff that Columbia made, which actually looks really, really appealing. Any 3d printed food I've seen looks gross. It's usually two to three ingredients, tops, it's usually not cooked. And I'm like a huge food aficionado. I love cooking. I'm thinking about using dozens of ingredients, different cooking methods. And then when you compare that to like doing something that looks like someone like squeezing toothpaste out of a toothpaste, little tube and put it on a plate and like it's 3d printed, I'd say we're not there yet. But I think this team from Columbia is getting us on the right track getting us to somewhere where honestly, I look at the photo that's attached to this article, which is in the show notes of this episode. I look at that and go yeah, I'd probably eat that.
Farbod: My friend. If food was a love language, you know, you and I would have that love language in common. I feel you, you know what you're saying it resonates with me. But all I'm gonna say is that before we can get a model three, we have to get a Model T, right? There has to be something that like is not great, but it is functional. And eventually we get there and that that is what I'm that is why I want to share this article because that's essentially what I'm saying. Big. Now you talk about like, one day just being able to print the cookie. Did you ever see Spy Kids when you were a kid? Yeah, I love this bike is movies. And there's this one scene where I think it's in the first movie. The kid is like, Oh, I'm really hungry. And he takes out a McDonald's packet, puts it in the microwave, and he pulls out an entire McDonald's meal, right? So, to the eyes of a kid who had just immigrated to the United States and loved fast food that was like the dream. And probably a portion of the driver of me becoming an engineer that that was like, the firt, the domino effect, right? So, when I'm seeing this article, and I'm seeing all these things, I think it's fascinating, not because I want it right now, but because I'm like, maybe we're in the Model T stage. Finally, maybe we're getting those baby steps in. So, you mentioned it, like a lot of these 3d Food printed stuff is just looks gross. And it's usually like one or two ingredients. So, it's not that special. And these folks actually, like recognize that problem. Like, look, it's it's usually like very soft, it's very sloppy, like, it's not appealing at all. But what if we tackled a multi-ingredient item, and we wanted to 3d printing, and they pick the great candidate, they pick the cheesecake, the humble, it delicious, hard-hitting cheesecake, right. And it has a bunch of different ingredients, you got your graham crackers right there, they're a little bit more stiff, they're a little bit more heavy. And then you got your cream, you got your jam. And depending on what other stuff you got going on there, we're using some peanut butter, right, different viscosity, different material properties. So, it's a challenging thing to put together. So, I think they picked a really great candidate for this.
Daniel: Especially from a technical perspective, which is the fact that you've got all these materials of different consistencies. They've all got their own different material properties, but you're trying to print it in a way that it looks appealing to the eye, and then it tastes good. And then I would say, similarly, they've picked, they didn't just pick an interesting technological challenge, they picked an interesting food challenge, a cuisine challenge than the fact that a big part of what makes a cheesecake so good, is the fact that there are these different ingredients. And there is the right balance of the you know, the sweetness and kind of saltiness of the graham cracker crust along with like, the tanginess of the of the cheesecake filling, like, all these things have to play off each other. The ultimate test for making sure that this 3d printing this this food, safe manufacturing can work is by attacking this challenge, where the way that this thing looks is really, really important, the balance of the different ingredients is really, really important than the different textures of the different ingredients, how they play off each other. That's also key. So I think that they've kind of picked as far as foods that can be 3d printed, which that's already a set of limitations, right. But a foods that can be 3d printed, I think they probably picked like the gauntlet to try and flex their muscles here and say, you know, this is what we can do. And honestly, I said it once I'll say it again, I look at the photo, the thing that they printed, and I would eat that. And that alone is a massive achievement. From the other 3d printed foods. I've seen what it honestly like the only 3d printed food other than this. This cheesecake from Columbia that I would trust is a peanut butter and jelly because I know for sure that a 3d printer can squirt out jelly onto a piece of bread and squirt out peanut butter on top of it. Like that's my level of distrust in 3d printing. But I look at this work from Columbia. And I go wow, that's that looks appealing. And I also know zooming out technologically, that's impressive as well.
Farbod: Yeah, but let's get into the technology. I mean, that's high praises from you, you know, given the context of how you feel about this technology to begin with. But they were trying to tackle this problem. And as I mentioned earlier, you have all these different materials, all these different ingredients, they have their own material properties, their own weight, yada, yada, yada. So, their first pass, they were like this is why it's not an easy way to do this. And they showed the failure case, which is you have graham cracker at the bottom, you start layering the other ingredients on top. And because they have no structural rigidity, they just collapse on each other. Right? So, you can't really finish it off. It just looks like a pile of ingredients. Like it's disgusting. I would not want that no one would want that that's not a cheesecake that's just ingredients together. So, they're like, Okay, what if like, we can start doing a layering process and maybe building some walls. So, you have graham crackers, and you build a wall and then you try to encase it with different stuff so that the more strong materials are like securing the weaker materials. And they had to iterate on that process a whole bunch to get the wall thicknesses, right and all that jazz. And they got it to a really good point until the very last layer where you had another layer of graham cracker coming in. So even though they had solved this issue of things collapsing on themselves as they were printing, once you put another heavy, they are the same heavy material, the base on top, it still collapses in on itself. So, they had to get more creative with different layers of walls, different geometries to play around with and the ways to embed stuff and build like roofs, kind of like if you've ever seen FDM 3d printing, which is like where you put down molten plastic layer after molten plastic layer. Sometimes, depending on the geometry that you're printing, you have to build supports, they were essentially building those supports with this heavier material. And at the end, they got a solution that looked like a grand cracker. And what I loved is that on the last layer, they actually took the main 3d printer away and did laser sintering. So that the top layer of graham cracker could be nice and crispy, because like you said, texture matters, right?
Daniel: Well, and that that's what I want to mention here is, you know, what they've done is adapted, kind of some version of FDM, fused deposition modeling, 3d printing technology, they've also taken a page out of the book of selective laser sintering, SLS technology, like you're saying, which are the type of 3d printers that use a better material, and they hit it with a laser from the top to kind of cook that material, usually a powder into the solid structure that they're looking at. So, what they've done is borrow FDM borrow SLS, 3d printing, to attack. Honestly, a lot of the pain points that I first mentioned, when I was griping at the beginning about how 3d printed food doesn't look that appealing or doesn't seem that appealing. Usually, 3d printing has only been done with one or two ingredients, and it usually isn't cooked. What they did here is they found a way to do multi material fused deposition modeling, I think they use what six or seven ingredients, yep, there’s 6 or 7 ingredients. And they were able to use it use, you know, an analogy to FDM technology to make sure that the material was deposited in a way that is structurally rigid in a way that looks appealing in a way that holds all the ingredients the way they're supposed to be because jelly might run all on its own. But graham crackers help hold the jelly where it's supposed to be. Then at the end of the day, they cooked it because cheese cakes are cooked. And I just love that they're able to use FDM and SLS technologies, which are established 3d printing technologies, and use this in a new realm, which is creating food that people actually want to eat.
Farbod: I'm with you. So, like when I looked at this, I was excited because I'm like, here's all these, you know, pitfalls that they've overcome. And they did it with mostly off the shelf technology. And that's super exciting to me, right? They proven that multi material food, 3d printing can work and it's feasible, I would eat that cheesecake. If they gave it to me, I try it. But it got me thinking like, I feel like there needs to be, you know, this is like a good baby step in the right direction. But we need to take like bigger steps. And my mind kept going to like all these episodes where we've talked about bioprinting like of soft materials that's used in the medical realm, we talked about bio printing hearts, I think we've talked about like bio printing specific tissues that can react. And a lot of them are like, here's how you can use inks with different properties, and then postprocess them to get him like in the state that you want them to be. And I'm sure food chemistry is more complicated than that. But I would love to see the magic that can come from getting the right geometries, everything set up and then not compromising anything for your food by having the flexibility of printing exactly what you want, and then a post processing method, resulting in the end product. I don't think, again, like you said, we're at the state where we can be like, oh, I want to print a cookie and you get the perfect cookie right away. But I'd like us in the next five to 10 years to reach a point where you're like, oh, you know the quality of food. I expect that on McDonald's. I can get at this like 3d printer booth. Stan, you know, like those coffee makers are done by robots. Yeah, I think we should be able to get a similar quality, I don't know apple pie, or cookie or something like that. From a machine in five and 10 years from now that we're getting from like a McDonald's or Burger King.
Daniel: Well, I would love to see this coexist with traditional culinary methods in the kitchen, right? Imagine you go to this really, really nice fancy Michelin star restaurant, I could totally see them making a dessert with like, a picture of your face sprayed on in the jelly that's on top of the cheesecake Right? Like I could absolutely see that happening. In addition, they talked about the ramifications of the use of this technology if it were widespread on demand production potential, reducing food waste. So, you know, if you want a slice of cheesecake, it's not going to make a whole cheesecake that's gonna sit in your fridge and potentially go bad. You can have it print just one slice of cheesecake for you so that there's not as much waste. And then finally, I think this is one that's really interesting because of the manner by which this food has to be assembled, which is essentially like I likened it earlier to just squeezing toothpaste out of a tube, but pretty much everything has to have some level of lovin scarcity low enough that they're able to squeeze it out of a nozzle. Because of that, you're gonna come around with this challenge where the textures like kind of squishy like kind of pureed. So, they're talking about creating new dishes, new textures, new flavors, new ingredient combinations that capitalize on the fact that this like is kind of a squishy material, different ingredient combinations of gastronomy. For me, I'm thinking about like, what if you can make the most complex but perfectly balanced pudding, like similarly to the way that cheesecake has a really good balance of all the different ingredients in different flavors, I'd be interested in seeing if someone can make a pudding that's got a really good balance of different types of flavors and different types of materials and different types of textures. But they also mentioned and this is what sounded really interesting to me, is the fact that there are people with swallowing disorders who have to eat their food pureed. I'm even thinking about a couple of years ago, one of my favorite hockey players Zdeno Chara took a hockey puck in the jaw during the middle of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And it's like 100 mile an hour hockey shot shattered his jaw had to have his mouth wired shut. For the remainder of the hockey playoffs, he continued to play, but he had to drink everything through a straw. Imagine how frustrating that would be if like everything you had to eat was soft. And there are a lot of people with swallowing disorders. And especially when elderly folks get to an older age and they have problems with choking. All the food that they have to eat is really, really soft. They said this would be a really, really interesting opportunity for them to create foods that are soft, but have the same shape and appearance as the foods that they're supposed to taste like or the food that they used to eat. So, imagine if you're having a savory pudding that kind of tastes like pizza, instead of it just looking like this kind of brown and red mix. In a jar, you can have it 3d printed into a shape of a pizza, which would make it a lot more palatable for someone who has to eat their food pureed because of these other conditions.
Farbod: Yeah, nah, that's a really good point. And by the way, just putting it out there. If I got a whole pie, I would eat the whole thing. Or a whole host of cheesecake. Yeah, I would eat the whole cheesecake, it would not sit in the back.
Daniel: So, the food waste isn't an issue with you absolutely not know me. And I don't think that's my problem either.
Farbod: Yeah. Good, good. Again, if food was a love language, we'd be sharing that. Yeah. Well, yeah, I mean, I don't I don't really have much else to say I was super excited to talk about this topic. I guess to recap, you know, food, 3d printing, for the most part has kind of sucked from the videos that we've seen. And from the articles that we've read, it's usually one or two ingredients, it doesn't look appealing. These folks wanted to tackle like, what does it mean to make an appealing 3d printed food that has multiple ingredients? And what would it take to actually get there, they iterated on this cheesecake approach. And they were able to accomplish a pretty good-looking cheesecake slice. And they leveraged you know, standard FDM, fused deposition modeling and selective laser sintering technologies that are common in 3d printing to get there, and you guys should definitely check it out. It just looks like a good slice of cheesecake.
Daniel: And that honestly, again, I'm gonna get back on my soapbox here. But that alone is a huge win, compared to some of the other things that we've seen that are 3d printed. You can go in the show notes, click on that article. That cheesecake actually looks at pretty dang good. And I would give it a whirl.
Farbod: Yeah. Again, you gotta get the Model T before the Model Three. putting it out there.
Daniel: Maybe model three is coming in one day. And I would love love love to be able to, you know, hit Command + P right here on my Mac. And just have like a nice slice of pie. And you know, we're not together right now. We're recording this right now separated right over zoom. Like you could you could 3d print your slice of pie, and we could enjoy our The NextByte pie, The NextByte of pie together.
Farbod: That was awful. But yes, I agree. I agree. That's the future we're shooting for. We'll do an episode when it happens. And what we're so invested in this that we know it's going to happen.
Daniel: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. Alright, let's wrap up the episode here, man. Yeah, we'll just say, a couple of folks have reached out to us. And we really appreciate you for reaching out saying, How can we help? How can we help grow the podcast? How can we make sure that more of this content keeps coming? The thing that gets us excited is when the community grows. So best thing you can do is leave a review for us on Apple and Spotify, wherever you're listening. If they're stars, we hope we've earned a five-star review from you. We'd love to get a review there. And if you've already left us a review, the best thing you can do is take this episode or another episode that's your favorite and share it with a friend. We appreciate everyone who's a part of the community. And the thing that the fire that keeps us going is the fact that this community keeps growing. We keep getting more involvement, we keep getting more engagement. So, the best thing you can do leave us a review for feedback and make sure that a friend listens to this so that they can get some of the NextByte cheesecake as well.
Farbod: Friends, don't let friends miss an episode of the next bite. Don't forget that. Alright folks, thank you so much. As always, we'll catch you in the next one.
That's all for today The NextByte Podcast is produced by Wevolver, and to learn more about the topics with discussed today visit Wevolver.com.
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