3d printed pear 3d printed pear You could be eating dinner from your 3D printer one day. (Photo: Alex_Traksel/Shutterstock)

One day we'll all be 3D-printing dinner

A university just introduced a novel concept for creating, designing and printing food that could be reality within 5 years.

We humans are a hungry bunch. We love to eat, and we prefer to do so quickly, with as little effort, time and energy as possible. And there's no shortage of ways to achieve this nowadays. There's curbside pickup, grocery delivery, restaurant delivery, Uber Eats, GrubHub, Amazon Prime Pantry, Tapingo, Farmigo, the list goes on and on until someone comes up with a way to conjure up a meal from thin air.

Well, we're actually getting there with that last one. Hebrew University in Israel just unveiled a concept for using a 3D printer to create, design and print a meal. The concept, though several years away from being implemented, already has a basic ingredient: nano-cellulose, a natural, edible fiber that could be altered to specific textures and bound to other substances like proteins, carbohydrates and fats to create real, fully cooked and quite delicious meals.

Sourdough bread Nano-cellulose could be modified to create common foods like bread and cereal. (Photo: Whytock/Shutterstock)

"The ability to automatically prepare, mix, form and cook personalized food in one device, is a truly revolutionary concept," said Yaron Daniely, president and CEO of Yissum, a tech company working in conjunction with Hebrew University on the concept. "The idea is to enable full control of the substances used, for the purpose of creating healthy and tasty meals that can be eaten immediately."

With the nano-cellulose as the base, a specialized 3D printer could do the job of baking, frying or grilling the meal based on the user's predefined specifications. The result, Daniely said, "is a tailored meal with special textures, enabling delivery of nutritional, tasty, low-calorie cooked meals for a unique gastronomical experience."

And for the folks at Yissum and Hebrew University, this technology is more than a high-tech gimmick. It could also solve real-world food and dietary issues that millions of people struggle with. "This has the potential to address a variety of challenges facing the field of nutrition, from the demand for personalized food for people with diseases such as celiac or diabetes, personal nutritional habits such as vegetarians, to addressing the problem of lack of food in developing countries," Daniely said.

Yissum recently introduced the concept at the "3D Printing and Beyond: Current and Future Trends" conference in Jerusalem on Oct. 25. He said the technology could be a reality within five years.

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