Open source hardware 3D printer for pizza-on-demand

A mechanical engineer (awesomely) named Anjan Contractor has won a NASA grant to prototype a 3D printer for food -- specifically pizza. It will lay down layers of food and flavor powder and melt them together; the powders are room-temperature stable for long periods and can be made from relatively abundant, sustainable foodstocks like insects and soylent green. He prototyped the concept with the 3D chocolate printer in the video above, and he holds out hope that food-printing could solve world hunger by allowing billions to feast on low-wastage, low-energy-input, low-carbon-footprint foods that are printed to order.

Contractor's printer is RepRap based, and is open source hardware; he promises to keep the plans open and free.

I suspect that there's a lot of nutritional subtleties lost when you turn food into processed elements that are recombined (in the same way that beta-carotene in carrots is reliably shown to have health benefits, while beta-carotene supplements are far more questionable). But as a form of food processing, it certainly is exciting!

Pizza is an obvious candidate for 3D printing because it can be printed in distinct layers, so it only requires the print head to extrude one substance at a time. Contractor’s “pizza printer” is still at the conceptual stage, and he will begin building it within two weeks. It works by first “printing” a layer of dough, which is baked at the same time it’s printed, by a heated plate at the bottom of the printer. Then it lays down a tomato base, “which is also stored in a powdered form, and then mixed with water and oil,” says Contractor.

Finally, the pizza is topped with the delicious-sounding “protein layer,” which could come from any source, including animals, milk or plants.

The audacious plan to end hunger with 3-D printed food (Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)


  1. If you have the “Food and Flavor Powders” readily available, surely there are easier ways to get them into a human-consumable state than with a 3D printer. While this technology is certainly interesting, I don’t understand how it’s supposed to “solve world hunger”.

    1. I’m confused by that too. Are we gonna ship powdered foods and 3D printers, instead of real food? Seems reasonable.
      Also, that was just a video of a machine smearing nutella on a cracker. Unimpressed.

    2. While this technology is certainly interesting, I don’t understand how it’s supposed to “solve world hunger”. Could someone enlighten me?

      That does seem like a rather bold statement. My impression was that the problem faced by starving masses in famine-stricken areas was the lack of raw foodstuffs, not an inability to prepare them. Perhaps this machine just uses less energy to prepare an edible meal than a human counterpart would?

    3. There’s no enlightenment to be had, I’m afraid.  The statement “food-printing could solve world hunger” is so nonsensical that it’s not even worth thinking about.

  2. This is asinine.  The power consumption of 3D printing versus using a simple extrusion machine or just plain squirting your mixed protein powder onto a baking sheet and pounding and pouring your pizza the old fashioned way makes this nothing but a quick way to grab grant money by riding the 3D printing meme.  And it’s all great when you’re running the thing in a lab where power sources are cheap and plentiful, which they aren’t in space or a third-world country.

    1. It does get a good score in Buzzword Bingo. All it needs is a 3D-printed craft beer to sip while waiting hours for the machine to spread the toppings on the dough.

  3. For a while, I wanted to construct a machine that would emit a continuous stream of pizza in a strip – through an oven and all. It could be cut into a zig-zag pattern to replicate the triangular slices we’re all used to. Alas, I am not sitting on a pile of funding, so this and other projects (jet-engine electric organ) are on hold.

  4. Bad pizza made inefficiently? I’m not even seeing the first-world appeal, and the idea that it would do anything to address famine is asinine. The problem is crop failures mostly due to weather and a lack of funds / infrastructure to bring in emergency food, not the inability to turn available food matter into pizza.  This kind of vapid article is why people make fun of 3D printing (which is actually an interesting technology with lots of cool potential) and refuse to take it seriously.

    1. It’s been argued that the biggest cause of starvation is economic.  Which makes this whole thing extra stupid.
      The big promise of 3D printers and food is in the creation of novel combinations of foodstuffs that can’t be done with conventional preparation techniques, but it’s completely a first-world product (if it were even delivering on that promise, which this isn’t).

  5. The obvious potential here is that it could 3d print a waffle and then ensure a consistently sized dollop of syrup is placed directly in the center of each square of the waffle, finally marking an end to the drudgery of putting syrup on waffles for OCD people.

  6. Pizza has been the perfect accompaniment to geekery for decades, but I see 3d printing spelling the end of the era where I like eating pizza.

  7. BoingBoing, you know what comes next: a 3D Printed Pizza Gun (that fires live ammunition!)

  8. Sounds like a Star Trek food replicator in embryonic stage.  “Tea, Earl Grey.  Hot.”

    This technology will solve a lot of the world’s problems, as soon as they get around the conservation of mass and energy issues.

  9. Soylent Green? Do you mean Rob Rhinehart’s soylent.. stuff? Because soylent green is from science fiction and was made from human cadavers. I don’t think this project is recycling humans.

    1. relatively abundant, sustainable foodstocks like insects and soylent green.

      That’s a joke, son.  Abundant foodstocks, overpopulation, soylent green.  Makes you want to gag. Joke that is.  /foghornleghorn

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