3D Printing Against the Food Waste Crisis

Food waste and additive manufacturing are two important developments in the recent years. The first a shocking crisis, the latter a solution for a variety of problems and challenges. Two Dutch students made the two cross paths now and upcycle unwanted food into 3D-printed luxurious snacks.

Header picture: © Elzelinde Van Doleweerd, Upprinting Food

While the food waste crisis is among the most significant challenges humanity is facing nowadays, additive manufacturing belongs to the most promising technologies and creative solutions for various problems. The latter has seen a lot of progress since its birth in 1981, when early additive manufacturing equipment and materials were slowly developed. The technology has come so far that the printing of prostheses (for human and animals), houses, bridges and vehicles is becoming a part of our everyday lives.

The idea of using 3D printing to tackle the food waste crisis took surprisingly long to develop, but the moment has come: thanks to two Dutch students and their university project.

When Ideas Become Reality

Elzelinde Van Doleweerd and Vita Broeken from the University of Eindhoven founded the company Upprinting Food, which uses food waste as the basis for 3D-printed perfectly edible food. The idea was born during Van Doleweerd’s final bachelor’s year as a graduation project in Industrial Design. It was then presented at the Dutch Design Week 2018. Due to the success and positive feedback at this event, Van Doleweerd decided to partner up with Broeken and soon after, the foundation for the startup was laid.

How to 3D Print Food

The number one wasted food of the two founders’ homeland, the Netherlands, is bread (similar to many other European countries). Furthermore, they use fruit and vegetables that are too ripe or not pretty enough to be sold. Even banana peels end up in their final products. The main motivation behind the project is the shocking amount of food that is wasted worldwide: One third of good food goes to the landfills. That’s why they decided to use unwanted produce and turn it into a printable food paste.

The process is easy but genius: Once the basic ingredients like bread, fruits and vegetables are mashed, herbs and spices are added for the flavour and the mixture is blended well. Designs like flowers, stars, helices and sundry other things are created on the computer, send to the printer and the device does the rest. The printed food is then baked and dehydrated, so that the resulting product is nicely crunchy and long durable.

The Next Steps

Finally, the snacks are packaged and can then be implemented in a dish. Since the form is easily changeable, everything is possible.

At the moment, Upprinting Food are working on new recipes as well as looking for collaborations with restaurants. They’re aiming to help restaurants to analyse and reuse their food waste, while simultaneously improving the process until it’s one day fast enough for mass production. Thanks to the two students, food that would have been thrown away is revived and shines like new, as soon as they’re done with it.

Still can’t believe it? Check out the company’s image film for some impressions:

Which other crises could or do already profit from additive manufacturing? Where do you see potential for this technology?

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