The military isn't exactly famous for serving gourmet food on the front lines, but troops may look forward to trading in their cans of SPAM and government cheese for 3D printed meals.
The Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, (NSRDEC), a division of the Natick Soldier Systems Center (NSSC), is responsible for researching, developing, fielding and managing many soldier support systems and items, including food, and as the Army’s website reveals, Lauren Oleksyk, a food technologyst, is investigating 3D printing applications for food processing and development as head of a research team within the Combat Feeding Directorate (CFD).
Oleksyk is optimistic about the advances in culinary 3D printing technology, saying “Printing of food is definitely a burgeoning science...In the confectionery industry, they are printing candies and chocolates. Some companies are actually considering 3D printing meat or meat alternatives based on plant products that contain the protein found in meat.”
3D Printed food has many benefits. It's cheaper to produce, and can be used on an on-demand basis, preventing waste. It could also allow for greater custom ability of the food to suit individual soldiers' tastes, allergies and nutrient requirements. Like current rations, 3D printed food can be post-processed and made ready-to-eat, and last up to three years. They can also be fine tuned fit specific battlefield requirements and portion exact amounts of essential vitamins, proteins, and carbs.
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