Posted in Kafevend Blog

I know I wouldn't qualify as a Star Trek aficionado, or Trekkie as the devoted fan is commonly known, but I certainly used to enjoy watching Next Generation with an enthusiasm that I've never managed to conjure up for soap operas. Several aspects intrigued and enthralled, not least the food replicators. It seemed such a miraculous step away from supermarket queues and cooking. Now although we still haven't mastered warp speed or transporters, replicators have indeed crossed the divide between science fiction and reality in the form of 3D printers.

3D printers create products by building them up layer upon layer using a variety of materials; gadgets, toys, machine parts, even a working gun have all rather worryingly been achieved. However, these futuristic machines are already using some foodstuffs too, namely sugar and chocolate. Intricate edible shapes and sculptures seem limited only by imagination.

NASA are keen to take the food application a step further, as they seek ways to adequately feed astronauts on a potential Mars mission. A Texas based company was awarded an innovation research grant to look at the feasibility of using 3D printing to provide food in space, after presenting their ideas at the Humans 2 Mars summit last May. A mission to Mars would require sufficiently nutritious and varied food over a far longer period than has ever been the case before. The idea is to store the ingredients in powdered form within cartridges. These would later be mixed, according to the individual astronaut's chosen recipe, along with water and oil and sprayed out layer by layer to provide the meal.

This has got me wondering how long it might be until vending machines become 3D snack printers. You could design your very own biscuit to go with your cup of tea!

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