Imagine floating weightless in an office far above earth, eating pizza straight out of a 3D printer.
Well, astronauts may not be far from experiencing such unique meal preparations in space.
In May 2013, NASA announced funding for a phase I, six-month $125, 000 study on 3D printing of foods in order to assess the technology’s ability to enable nutrient stability, minimize crew time, provide a variety of foods and reduce waste.
3D printing is a process that takes a three-dimensional digital model and “prints” it in thin layers. Or, as David Irvin of Systems and Materials Research Corporation, explains, it’s “”additive manufacturing, where you only put the things you need, where you want them.”
Everything from shoes to surgical implants have been 3D printed, offering a reduction in waste materials and moulds. And now, the technology has expanded to include food.
“At our company, we are specifically looking to control the micronutition of food,” said Irvin, adding that micronutrients decay in the presense of moisture, meaning an astronaut’s diet may decrease drastically in quality over the span of a space mission.
The technology shows promise, not just for the potential elimination reduction in space meals served in tubes and pouches, but also for certain diets here on earth. To find out more about where 3D printing shows promise, we caught up with Irvin at the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference in Saskatoon. Take a listen: