Posted November 5, 2014 by Jodi Hillman
The Army’s Natick Research Center is researching printing food for troops on the move. Currently the, troops carry their own meals, called MREs (meals ready to eat) in their packs. These MREs take up precious space in what little area the troops have to store supplies in their combat packs. The goal of 3-D printed food is to lighten the load while allowing the troops to have nutritious food on demand.
“We envision to have a 3-D printer that is interfaced with the soldier. And that sensor can deliver information to the computer software. And then they would be able to have either powdered or liquid matrices that are very nutrient dense, that they have on demand that they can take and eat immediately to fill that need,” Lauren Oleksyk said, who leads the team of technologists at the research center.
Research funding has just been approved by the Department of Defense. The ultimate goal is to print nutritional food on the battlefield with the food being personalized to the individual soldier. The soldier would wear a sensor that would register their potassium and cholesterol levels. Based on the soldier’s needs, the printer would produce a product with the exact nutrient the solider needs. At this point, research is going to be focused on how printing a solid piece of food would actually work.
“There’s synthetic types of meats, there’s real beef, there’s real meat. And we would see what that does in the printing process to that protein whether its animal based or plant based,” said Lauren Oleksyk.
The Sugar Lab in Los Angeles currently prints sugar into sculptures for cocktails and wedding cakes. So 3-D nutritious food is not so far away. Scientists expect 3-D printed meals for soldiers to be ready by 2025.