If you don’t regularly prepare your own food, is it because of the time involved? Would you make homemade pizza more often if you could “print”’ it? Barcelona-based Natural Machines aims to automate many kitchen tasks, but its Foodini food printer resembles a sleek desktop 3D printer more than any of the appliances already in your kitchen. And like its 3D-printing cousins, Foodini also lets users add in a dash of personal customization.

While it’s amusing to compare the Foodini to a futuristic Star Trek replicator, it’s more apt to call it an automated Play-Dough machine – it extrudes, not replicates, shapes. The device relies on the user still providing their own ingredients, or buying food capsules from the company, and loading them into the machine for shaping and finishing.

While Foodini’s inspiration was to automate the creation of sweets, such as dazzling chocolate sculptures or delicately precise cookies for example, the demo recipes span a wide range of cuisine. Anything that is soft and malleable is game for the Foodini: sauces, dough, batter, purees, meat and veggie fillings, chocolate and candy.

Foodini creates pizza by extruding dough into a spiral shape

To make the aforementioned pizza, Foodini extruded dough in a spiral, then layered on tomato sauce, while the user was responsible for adding toppings. While this might be overkill for one pizza, it starts to make sense when contemplating making a dozen pizzas all to the same specification.

Foodini chefs also served up vegan chickpea nuggets in perfect animal shapes. The ability to change the shape of food merely by loading a new vector image is perhaps even more compelling than the device’s automation.

A closer view of how the Foodini builds up a higher 3D structure with layers

While the machine does have a heating element with a maximum temperature of 100°C (212°F), this is only enough heat for functions like keeping melted chocolate flowing or warming food. A user follows up by baking the assembled foods and can also use the Foodini for finishing steps, such as decorating plates, squeezing on a pattern of icing, or applying a layer of melted cheese.

From looking at the pictures, the doughs do seem to be much softer than a human would prepare to manipulate by hand, but perhaps this isn’t an issue when the food is printed straight onto the baking surface and no human handling is required.

Foodini is aimed for both home and restaurant use, and will be available for sale in mid-2014. With an expected price of £835 (US$1368), however, Dad may not be using a food printer to prepare his signature rocket-shaped ravioli quite yet.

Source: Natural Machines via BBC