Remember that scene in “Back to the Future Part II” where the future McFly family prepares dinner by “hydrating” a tiny, dense circle into an entire pizza? In mere minutes, they’re all happily devouring food from the future.
This appliance might have seemed impossible back in 1989 when the film premiered, but thanks to today’s 3D printing technology, it’s becoming more of a reality.
In fact, a recent Automation World article detailed the future of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, in the food industry. And yes, “printing” pizza is a possibility.
Enter Foodini, by Natural Machines— a 3D food printer that makes pizza, pasta, breads, and cookies. Does making ravioli from scratch sound daunting? The creators of Natural Machines suggest to simply load the dough and filling and let Foodini print the pasta for you.
While Foodini isn’t available for purchase quite yet, co-founder Lynette Kucsma, envisions a time where every household will own their own 3D food printer, according to Automation World.
Industry experts even say that 3D printing will help food manufacturers, not harm. Laurence Gibbons of Food Manufacture said it will be a huge part of the food and beverage industry — reducing costs and production time. In fact, Gibbons suggests it could even be as valuable to food manufacturers as the Internet.
But 3D printing isn’t limited to the food industry– it’s anything but.
New Balance, the athletic wear brand, announced yesterday their newest running shoe model– one that incorporates a 3D-printed midsole.
Instead of the traditional foam at the bottom of a sneaker, this model will have a lighter, 3D-printed midsole. According to Fast Company, brands like Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have experimented with 3D printing for a few years now. Apparently, shoe companies are now competing to make a lighter shoe, one that can be produced quickly and they’re doing so with the help of 3D printing.
So if food, running sneakers, and even automobile parts are impacted, where else is 3D printing applicable?
According to Jesse Snyder of Alberta Oil Magazine, the oil and gas industry may be next. Snyder said Apollo-Clad’s laser cladding is a lot like 3D printing oilfield pipes and tools.
“Suspended in the air over the tube is the spray nozzle of a laser-cladding machine, which has been placing successive layers of tungsten carbide to build up three “stabilizer blades” in the center portion of the tool,” said Snyder.
Doug Hamre, the head of research and development at Apollo-Clad, a company that manufactures and repairs downhole tools and mining equipment, said it’s “exactly like 3D printing, but on a larger, industrial scale.”
David Greenfield of Automation World even said back in 2014 that “the ability to print using many different types of materials, and decreasing costs” could make 3D printing a game changer for the global automation market.
At the 2014 IHS Industrial Automation conference, senior principal analyst Alex Chausovksy said that industrial machinery production is an area to be most dramatically impacted by 3D printing technology.
According to Chausovksy, we are on the cusp of a new way to produce. However, he warns that another change it could bring to the manufacturing industry is “a restructuring of intellectual property rights.”
“Manufacturers will have to think about IP (intellectual property) in a different way. They may need to move from selling physical parts to selling CAD files for customers to print,” said Chausovksy in the Automation World article.
If this explosion of additive manufacturing or 3D printing can teach us anything, it’s that technology continues to transform industries of all sizes and compositions.