Columbia engineers have developed a robot capable of cooking 3D-printed food using lasers. That’s right, Mechanical Engineering Professor Hod Lipson is leading the “Digital Food” team of his Creative Machines Lab in the development of a fully autonomous digital personal chef. The team 3D-printed chicken samples (3 mm thick by ~1in2 area) as a test bed and discovered that laser-cooked meat shrinks 50% less, while still retaining double the moisture content. It even shares a similar flavor profile when compared to conventionally cooked meat. Read more for two videos and additional information.
The main obstacle now to commercializing this technology is creating a ‘Food CAD,’ or what you can think of as the Photoshop of food. In other words, high level software that enables people who are not programmers or software developers to design the foods they want. Once that’s accomplished, you’ll need a place where people can share digital recipes, similar to music.
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We noted that, while printers can produce ingredients to a millimeter-precision, there is no heating method with this same degree of resolution. Cooking is essential for nutrition, flavor, and texture development in many foods, and we wondered if we could develop a method with lasers to precisely control these attributes,” said Jonathan Blutinger, a PhD in Lipson’s lab who led the project.