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3-D Food Printer Makes Edible Extrusions, Courtesy of Cornell and Dave Arnold

3-d food printing
Mad scientist/artist/all-around genius Dave Arnold (yes, the guy who uses a laboratory centrifuge to prepare fig juice) has been working with Cornell University's Fab@Home program to explore the possible uses of 3-D printers in the kitchen. In a recent segment for CNN Money, Arnold and the Cornell crew got to show off the frontiers of computer-controlled food extrusion. Yummo!

Wait, wait. We hear you gagging all the way over in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, complaining of 'Star Trek' space glop that looks and tastes like cat food. Don't worry, reader: Arnold shares your worries. "CNN was hoping for a story about how great it will be when, in the near future, we come home, press a button, and have machine print out dinner for us," he writes on his Cooking Issues blog. (Which you're bookmarking right now, yes?) "I find that whole idea, which removes ourselves even further from the way our food is made, horrifying."

Instead, Arnold and Fab@Home's Jeffrey Lipton decided to look at 3-D printing as a way to create new textures -- not just spit out boeuf bourguignon in homogeneous paste form. They tell CNN about how it'll be great for decorating cupcakes (even though it's been done before, more or less), but we figure they're just trying to be servicey for the Money people. The interesting thing about 3-D printing -- to us, at least -- is not that it may put a few pastry chefs out of business, and allow homemakers to slap flawless curlicues across a petrified Sara Lee box cake. Instead of just dressing up old food, can 3-D printing make better, new food? We think Arnold is more interested in the latter, as he decided to print out weird cakes of masa dough that look a lot like dried ramen noodle blocks.

Arnold notes that 3-D food printing does pose certain problems -- like the fact that you need a homogeneous medium to extrude in the first place. Arnold uses masa dough -- normally used to make tortillas, arepas, fill tamales, etc. -- and a "stochastic printing" process coded by Lipton to make squiggly corn cakes. While it looks mighty tasty -- Arnold claiming that it has "the taste of a tortilla and texture reminiscent of shredded wheat" -- we're already fantasizing about other applications. What about ball-joint candies, or edible dinnerware? Without getting too gimmicky, can you use 3-D printing to create an edible architecture that couldn't be crafted any other way? Of course, we'll leave the materials up to Arnold and company, but we can still wonder. Can the 3-D printer be rigged to pipe hard-ball sugar? Methocel? Dare we say... chocolate?

Tags: 3-d, 3-dPrinter, 3dPrinter, 3dPrinting, cooking, CookingIssues, CornellUniversity, DaveArnold, food, FrenchCulinaryInstitute, household, JeffreyLipton, top