The idea of 3D printing food seems to attract two types of people—those who see this idea as more about shaping pulverized food or using pulverized food to decorate other food; and those who want something akin to the Star Trek replicator—i.e., create food out of molecules. The first group knows you have to grow the food first before you can 3D print it, at least so far. The second group hopes (believes) that 3D printing can solve the food shortage crisis without the need to grow food.
Thus, when FELIXprinters announced it has 3d-printed a vegetarian salmon, call me skeptical. They have not created a 3D printer mimic of the Star Trek replicator. But through the use of special inks, they have done something interesting.
The company’s recently introduced BIOprinter was developed for medical, scientific, and research applications. Its features include syringe cooling, print bed cooling and heating, a dual-head system, easy syringe positioning (ergonomic access to the machine supports researchers in their work), and automatic bed leveling.
In recent months a group of international students developed a 3D printing technique that enables them to print complex binders and proteins into plant-based fish alternatives.
The trio of students from The University of Gothenburg, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, and The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) started to work together on an EU-led project in 2017. During their work research as part of Training4CRM, the team realized that similar techniques could be applied to 3D print plant-based proteins.
The student team realized the printer could be used to 3D print fish instead of medicinal products. The AM method works by extruding a range of plant-based bio-inks, the BIOprinter allowing the extrusion of different plant-based ingredients (basically “food-inks”) through different print heads. This allows the production of the complex appearance of salmon fillets, showing the realistic distribution of orange/red meat tissue and white connective tissue.
A driver behind the use of 3D printing for fish production centers around sustainability issues, addressing the fact that many of the world’s fisheries are at the moment pushed beyond their biological limits. In addition, 3D printing fish rather than relying on traditional fishing methods reduces greenhouse gas emissions, destruction of the oceans, and negates the need to use antibiotics, a common necessity to “aquacure” salmon in fish farms.
The process is now set to be launched commercially under the trading name Legendary Vish with the aim of providing a healthier and tastier alternative to existing vegan-friendly fish substitutes.
Wilgo Feliksdal, Co-Founder of FELIXprinters comments, “The BIOprinter consists of an adaptable and flexible ecosystem to ensure that it can meet a range of researchers’ needs without generating unnecessary costs, and we are delighted that it has been at the core of the work undertaken at Legendary Vish. One major advantage is the source control system which enables the user to use standard slicing software and make changes themselves if needed. Also, syringes are not restricted to expensive brand-specific or in-house produced products that essentially drive up operating costs. The machine instead has been designed to use a standard 5ml syringe, and standardized petri dishes and culture plates, so there are no limitations on auxiliary parts and materials.”