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NASA Sends 3D Pizza Printer Into Space

We already know that NASA is planning to send a 3D printer to the International Space Station.  The printer will be fully equipped with the technological wherewithal required to produce spare parts as and when the astronauts require them.  Whatever next, you ask.  Well, how about a 3D printer that prints food?  (See image above).

This is not as fantastical as it sounds.  In fact, Los Angeles based company The Sugar Lab is already using 3D printed sugar decorations on its cakes and researchers at Cornell University are busy experimenting with comestibles, too.  Not to be outdone, NASA is aiming to be able to provide astronauts with a 3D food printer – think the Star Ship Enterprise’s food replicator and you’re almost there.  If they are successful, there will be no need to send freeze dried nutrition into space to feed astronauts; future deep space residents would have no requirement for cultivatable land in order to produce food and there are of course much wider implications for worldwide famine relief.  The military is also waiting with great interest for the results of this project.  Supplies for troops operating overseas are costly and bulky to transport and store.  Imagine how much money could be saved if the majority of provisions could be ‘printed’ on site as and when required.

NASA has chosen Systems and Materials Research of Texas in the US to work on this technology and have provided them with a grant of a seemingly rather modest $125,000.  And we may not have long to wait for the results as the company has already managed to print chocolate using an adapted 3D printer!  The aim of the project is to produce food that is nutritious, tasty, looks good and smells good, too.  The 3D nosh would replace the current astronaut fodder which is short on both goodness and flavour and doesn’t last long enough to be used on missions of any great length which effectively restricts the scope of our space exploration missions.  It is anticipated that the 3D printed food’s base ingredients would have a shelf life of up to 30 years.

The first item on the menu is likely to be pizza.  Pizza is deemed a suitable candidate as it is made up of layers and this dovetails nicely with the basic principles of 3D printing technology.  The theory is thus: nutrients (i.e. protein, carbs etc) are held as powder in special printer cartridges.  When selected they are blended with water and oil in a mixing chamber then heated up and sprayed (like traditional toner) in layers onto a heated plate until cooked.  The astronauts might even be able to download recipes sent by computer from Earth.  Provided they had the necessary powdered ingredients to hand, there would be no reason why they couldn’t ‘print’ personalized dishes as and when desired.

Sounds unlikely?  Well, so did microwave technology back in the 1960's!

Image source: NDTV.com

 

Alison Page

About Alison Page

Alison is a small business owner, freelance writer, author and dressage judge. She has degrees in Equine Science and Business Studies. Read her full story at http://www.theladywriter.co.uk

Alison Page

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