New steps in 3D food printing made possible thanks to NWO funding

Published on
May 4, 2021

3D Food Printing enters into a New Phase as Wageningen University and Eindhoven University of Technology were granted funding for their PRINTYOURFOOD project by the NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES) as part of the Open Technology programme. The project should make it possible to create personalised and healthy 3D-printed food with a printer successfully every time. To achieve this, researchers will develop a digital twin: an intelligent model that can assess whether a recipe will be successful. In the future, it will be possible to implement this model in other printers.

The universities and TNO have been working together for a while under the form of the Digital Food Processing Initiative and have now secured major funding. Three PhD students and a team of experienced researchers will be collaborating with Lamb Weston, Ruitenberg Inredients, and Gastronology | 3D Food Works, who have shown interest in the use of the digital twin and will contribute to the project financially. The result is a new collaboration between the science and business communities. The PhD students will work on a vegetable puree (Gastronology | 3D Food Works) and potatoes (Lamb Weston) to develop prototypes for new 3D Food.

During the project, the researchers will focus on the healthy composition of 3D Food. “There is a lack of knowledge in this area,” says Maarten Schutyser, associate professor at Wageningen University and project leader of PRINTYOURFOOD. “Some companies can already print 3D Food in nice shapes, but few successful printing processes have been developed in which the healthy compositions of food can be modified. This is why we will research the possibilities of protein structures, carbon hydrates, fats, and fibres and how they can be incorporated in 3D Food successfully and flexibly. At the moment, things often go wrong which means the end product is not right. We will study the printing behaviour and the textures to gain a better understanding of the process and the end product.”

To successfully print personalized food in one attempt requires a multidisciplinary approach”, says Patrick Anderson, professor at Eindhoven University of Technology. "Within this project, the knowledge in the field of structure, rheology and mechanics of food from Wageningen is linked with the expertise in the field of high-tech systems and material processing from Eindhoven.

The research should result in an intelligent model that provides recommendations about the optimal printing process and assesses whether recipes are feasible and will result in the desired product texture or not. “This digital twin will be able to control 3D printers and ensure that 3D Food is printed successfully every single time. Faulty prints will become a thing of the past.

3D Food Printing is a technology uniquely suitable for the creation of healthy, personalised food, says Schutyser. “Adding a vitamin, a different amount of protein or carbohydrates: it may encourage the elderly as well as people in recovery or athletic people to follow a healthy diet. This is the promise that we are working towards. The objective of the DFPI collaboration is to jointly implement more digital technologies in the food production industry. It is a community in which knowledge is shared, and the funding we were awarded means that we can now set up a long-term project.”