Optical images of the 3D printed complex structures.
Singapore researchers have developed a method to perform 3D printing of milk-based products at room temperature, while maintaining their temperature-sensitive nutrients.
The method was achieved by researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) by changing the rheological properties of the printing ink.
Given the versatility of their demonstrated method, the scientists believe that it offers potential in formulating nutritionally controlled foods customised for individual requirements.
Previously, 3D printing of food has been achieved by methods such as selective laser sintering (SLS) and hot-melt extrusion. However, such methods are not always compatible with reacting 3D models of foods with temperature-sensitive nutrients.
Milk is therefore unsuitable for 3D printing using the aforementioned printing methods as its calcium and protein content cannot withstand high temperatures.
While the study highlights the alternative method of cold-extrusion, it says it often requires rheology modifiers and the optimisation of the multiple components, which is a complex task.
To tackle such limitations, the research team from SUTD’s Soft Fluidics Lab changed the rheological properties of the printing ink and demonstrated direct ink writing 3D printing of milk by cold-extrusion with powdered milk.
The team found that the concentration of milk powder allowed for the simple formulation of 3D-printable milk inks using water to control the rheology. The method did not require any additives, nor did it compromise the nutrients that would usually be spoilt from heat.
The research, which was published in RSC Advances, suggested the potential capabilities of printing with other types of food, and presented its successful printed 3D structure of a couch with milk ink and chocolate inks at different layers.
“This novel yet simple method can be used in formulating various nutritious foods including those served to patients in hospitals for their special dietary needs,” said the lead author of the paper, Lee Cheng Pau.
Over the last few years, 3D printing has become increasingly more prominent across the food and beverage sector. For example, Redefine Meat has developed animal-free meat through combining a 3D meat modelling system and plant-based food formulations and more recently KFC joined forces with Russian company, 3D Bioprinting Solutions, to create laboratory-produced chicken nuggets.
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