Hungry? Try 3D printing your food

Natural Machines is taking DIY to a new level with their 3D food printer, the Foodini

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has expanded beyond plastics, metal, and makeup to shake up the food industry. Cue the entrance of 3D food printers, which deposit layers of edible powders or pastes until the desired object is constructed.

Foodini in a Nutshell

In 2014, Natural Machines introduced the “Foodini” 3D printer which uses stainless steel capsules to print a range of savory and sweet dishes.Consumers choose a recipe from the Foodini’s touchscreen or their own device, insert the required ingredient capsules, and let the Foodini produce dishes such as chocolate, pizza, and burgers. Printed food can be eaten immediately – if it’s pre-cooked or consumable raw– or cooked further. It is particularly useful in creating complex designs (e.g., cake decorations), recipes that require precision and dexterity (e.g., filled pasta), and repetitive tasks (e.g., breadsticks).

3D food printers create meals on-demand precisely and quickly, with less waste than traditional cooking methods. Because the appliance is connected to the internet, recipes and designs can be uploaded, shared, and applied seamlessly. As an ‘Internet of Things’ device, the portable Foodini could be connected to other ‘smart’ devices in the future, such as smart refrigerators or Fitbits, to enable greater customization and automatization.2


While this technology is still developing, there are many use cases of the Foodini. At $2,000, the Foodini is currently used by high-end kitchens and restaurants, with the goal of becoming a common household appliance.3 In Spain, acclaimed chef Paco Perez is using the Foodini to create “sea coral,” a seafood puree in an elaborate design that would be difficult to create by hand.4 A German retirement home is using 3D printers to create nutritious meals for seniors with chewing and swallowing difficulties.5

burger    sea-coral

Beyond restaurants, the Foodini could play a role in reducing the amount of chemical additives in food and preventing overconsumption. It could print alternative protein sources, such as algae and insects (s/o to Jared), to reduce global consumption of meat. Food printers could enable customization of macronutrients, as consumers will be able to tailor the precise amount of protein, carbohydrates, and other vitamins in their meals.6 For those with medical conditions, that could mean linking the printer with specific dietary needs (e.g., gluten-free, diabetic, low-fat) and printing specialized meals.


An obstacle the Foodini will have to overcome is consumer fear of eating 3D printed food. Fortunately, there is hope for the Foodini, as consumers were once afraid of the microwave when it was first introduced, and it has since become a household staple.While food printers can be used for chocolate and dough, more complex products such as meat will be hard-pressed to achieve the right texture and flavor. 3D printing can be a time-consuming process, since designs require successive layers of ingredients, which may lead to long cycle times.10 Further research will likely help the Foodini overcome these potential issues.

The Foodini will also require shifts in the supply chain, as consumers will have to purchase capsules of pastes or powders rather than traditional raw ingredients. Consumers may have to find new suppliers and distributors of ingredients, which may not be readily available now.8 Natural Machines is already collaborating with food manufacturers to create pre-packaged capsules that can be inserted into the Foodini.9

Next Steps

Natural Machines should focus on expanding the market for 3D food printers by partnering with key stakeholders in the food and health industry. Currently the Foodini is a novelty and used to create niche products like “sea coral.” To be commercially successful, Natural Machines will need to expand their partnerships with food manufacturers to create capsules that are everyday meals (e.g., dinner for two). Given how successful meal kits and pre-packaged foods are today, the Foodini could be a natural vehicle for delivering easy-to-assemble, quick meals.

To encourage consumer trial of 3D printed food, Natural Machines should partner with grocery stores, such as Whole Foods, and set up tasting stations. Not only would grocery stores demonstrate that 3D printed foods are delicious, these stores could also sell 3D printers and food cartridges.

As food allergies and sensitivities are becoming increasingly common, the Foodini could help consumers create specialized meals. Health nuts will find value in using the Foodini to customize nutrients and specify caloric intake. Syncing data with health companies like Fitbit would create an ecosystem that enables people to achieve their individual wellness goals.

Finally, 3D printing technology continues to evolve each day, and Natural Machines should further collaborate with others in the space. Modern Meadow, a company that just raised $10M to research printable biomaterials, could be a partner to bring new innovative products to market.11 The Foodini holds a lot of promise in the food industry, though it will take time for it to be as ubiquitous as the microwave.


Word Count: 795



1 Jacopo Prisco, “’Foodini’ machine lets you print edible burgers, pizza, chocolate,” CNN,, accessed November 2016.

2 Sidney Fussell, “This company is creating incredible 3D printed food you can eat,” Business Insider,, accessed November 2016.

3 Ibid.

4 Neil Koenig, “How 3D printing is shaking up high end dining,” CNN,, accessed November 2016.

5 Bianca Botero-Murphy, “Can 3D printing help us to eat healthier?”, Chicago Tribune,, accessed November 2016.

6 Kyle Wiggers, “Why 3D food printing is more than just a novelty — it’s the future of food,” Digital Trends,, accessed November 2016.

7 Matt McCue, “Will 3D printed food become as common as the microwave?,” Fortune,, accessed November 2016.

8 Hans Thalbauer, “Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain,” Digitalist Magazine,, accessed November 2016.

9 Jacopo Prisco, “’Foodini’ machine lets you print edible burgers, pizza, chocolate,” CNN,, accessed November 2016.

10 Kyle Wiggers, “Why 3D food printing is more than just a novelty — it’s the future of food,” Digital Trends,, accessed November 2016.

11 Ibid.



The Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Forte


A Hospital’s $1.2 billion Digital Transformation

Student comments on Hungry? Try 3D printing your food

  1. Thanks for a great post!

    What really stuck with me is the way that this technology can connect to other parts of our lives, seeing that food is so integral to everything else we do. One could imagine this device to be hooked up to not only fitness trackers like FitBit, but also to your doctor who can track how your body reacts to different foods or to insurance companies that adjust premiums based on how healthy your meals are.

    With regards to their operating model: I’m curious to see how this will play out in terms of the actual food. Will Foodini “own” all the food production, or will it be smarter for them to be the “platform” and then let the WholeFoods/McDonald’s/Chipotle be the ones developing the food and owning the recipes?

  2. I would have never imagined that 3d printing would be used to make food. I feel like we would be so limited in what we could make, but apparently this printer has an entire cookbook. In my mind, where I see this fitting into the average household is by replacing microwave dinners. Why “nuke” something, when I can create it on demand while doing other things, such as laundry. It seems like the real technology isn’t the printing device itself, but the food powder in a capsule. Creating these items for each ingredient of the meal will be difficult and then also claiming that these ingredients are “high quality”. That is what I see as the major challenge and hopefully we can overcome this difficulties so that we can one day have 3d printed foods in our kitchen.

  3. This is such an innovative use-case of 3D printing. When mapping out plans for the future, one critical decision is to decide to focus our resources between on residential or on commercial clients. I will argue going with the commercial clients will help, as they will bring the potential economies of scale, sophistication of cuisine and menu design. Particularly, we should choose some up-scale restaurant and try anchor one to two highly recognized chefs as we design, iterate and promote the product.

  4. 3D printing is impressive, even with its limitations. I like the idea of being able to 3D print something at home instead of waiting for it to be sent to me. Printing food seems to be a novel concept to use the 3D printer to do. From a business perspective, it could be similar to an ink printer where the hardware can be sold at a loss because the cost of the ink will make up for the loss. Selling food preparation packages that can be used like ink in the printer would add value to the use, especially based on the frequency people need to eat. The future possibilities could mean that you may have to purchase the food packets, but then you could put them in slots in the refrigerator (if needed to be in the refrigerator) that could be selected based on the meal you want to have, and you could do that from your smartphone before you get home so your food is ready to eat when you get home and are ready to eat it.

    I still have a concern about the true nutritional value of 3D printed food items. It seems like the food packets would be changed in a way that makes it not as effective for our bodies to get the nutrients out of it.

  5. Great example of how technology is being used to innovate not only around the production, supply chain or delivery of food, but also the food itself. I see this as even being embedded into vending machines, specifically for caffeine drinks such as coffee. Imagine someone who is prone to diabetes, but likes a lot of sugar in their coffee. Using this technology, the machine can serve this person 1mg less of sugar in their coffee each day, slowly reducing the sugar consumed without the person noticing a drastic shift in taste. Through the internet, all the machines can even be linked to each other and users can have “profiles” that remember their consumed meals history and preferences!

  6. Really interesting post, and of course love the shoutout.

    This company can disrupt many industries — less reliance on labor in food service, create savings in food production, leverage IoT infrastructure, save energy while cooking, and educate the population on healthy food choices. I wonder what the economics are for widespread use of this machine. I really like Aakash’s idea of “user profiles” for food. I think the Foodini lends itself well to a shared model where the $2,000 cost can be spread over many users and meals, with value created in saving food inputs and key labor costs. It will be interesting to see how this product is disseminated through the food services industry.

  7. Great post. I would love to learn more about the competition in this space and how 3D printed food is changing or could change the restaurant industry. If 3D printers can eventually execute on all types of meals, will this change the experience at restaurants? This could ultimately have an impact on the layout of restaurants and reduce the need for back of house space and lower kitchen exhaust. With respect to in-home 3D printers, I would imagine that the investment could make this prohibitive. This is likely a commercial product for the near future.

  8. What an innovative topic! I had no idea 3D printing was so evolve that we’re at a stage we can print food. In terms of possible applications or uses I think the sky is the limit, and not even that. As NASA is planning the first journey of humans to Mars, one of the key challenges is food, both on the journey to Mars and while being there. 3D printing could be the answer (given that the technology could be compacted enough). In terms of challenges I think the key challenge, one that should not be underestimated is consumer preferences. It would be an uphill battle convincing people to eat food that originated from capsules. Microwave was just a method to cook food and coffee capsules are not that different from regular ground coffee. A potential operational way to deal with this concern would be to vertically integrate and control the process of manufacturing capsules. By controlling both the machine and the raw materials Natural Machines can better control the PR message and perhaps change consumer preferences. Another option would be to choose a different design than capsules for the raw materials. Something that will favor better with consumers.

  9. Thanks for an interesting post – that could indeed be the future of food.

    However, it seems like the technology comes with a great many challenges. Typical 3D food requires successive layers of ingredients to cool and cook, sometimes leading to very long wait times. Processing meat for instance can be very complicated because unlike plastic of metals, such food ingredient interacts with others. Moreover, how do you think the culinary world will feel about 3D food printers? Wouldn’t it reduce all food to “fast-food/processed food”?

  10. Fascinating! My company was beginning to use 3-D printing technology, but I had no idea this extended to the food industry. I think the use case for senior citizens is a great one, and I could also see some tremendous benefits for the baby/toddler set, who are notoriously fickle in their preferences and appetites. Parents could experiment with their children’s preferences with relatively lower variable costs (as presumably the different capsules could be combined in a variety of different ways). While I agree with the concern about customer adoption for full meals (I certainly would not want to eat a 3-D printed steak, as you mention!), I think there’s tremendous potential to leverage this technology for entertainment purposes. Customers planning a cocktail or dinner party could bring a caterer’s job in-house and have the machine create incredible, artistic appetizers or fancy, petite desserts for guests.

  11. This is super cool! As with any new technology however, I wonder whether people would be afraid of it–especially something as personal as food that enters our stomach! Multiply Labs is facing similar challenges in addressing its target audience. As the first provider of customizable 3D printed supplemental pills, Multiply Labs not only has to convince customers that it is safe but also convince the relevant authority. The FDA, for example, has scrutinized its products for a long periods of time and approval is still pending.

Leave a comment