Renowned chefs like Grant Achatz, David Chang, and a slew of other culinary innovators have rarely shied away from science when it comes to enhancing their cooking. But how might technology affect average Americans and the ways they prepare their own meals at home? Now, researchers at the Columbia School of Engineering have set out to find new ways to create food using 3D printers—and they're succeeding.
Hod Lipson—a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia's Creative Mechanics Lab—has been partnering with the International Culinary Center in New York City in the hopes of discovering exciting new ways to marry technology and the culinary arts. While for years 3D printers have been used to create everything from musical instruments to prosthetic limbs, Lipson and his team envision a world where these machine could one day exist in home kitchens across the country.
While the project is still in the prototype stage, two of Lipson's students designed the printer, and the group is making strides toward upending one of the most atavistic aspects of human nature.
"We've been cooking forever, but if you think about it, while technology and software has sort of wormed its way into every aspect of our lives, cooking is still very primitive," Lipson said in a new video released by Columbia. "This is one area where where technology has not permeated. I think it's very interesting to think what would happen when you bring software and robotics into something as basic cooking."
Lipson believes 3D printing could not only change the way we cook, but what kinds of foods we put in our bodies based on our own biometrics. Though the project is not intended to replace a stove or an oven—or solve world hunger over night—the product could still be revolutionary moving forward.
“Food printers are not meant to replace conventional cooking—they won’t solve all of our nutritional needs, nor cook everything we should eat," Lipson said in a statement. "But they will produce an infinite variety of customized fresh, nutritional foods on demand, transforming digital recipes and basic ingredients supplied in frozen cartridges into healthy dishes that can supplement our daily intake. I think this is the missing link that will bring the benefits of personalized data-driven health to our kitchen tables."