Buggy 3D Printed Kitchen Appliance Targets Sustainable Nutrition

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While I don’t think many people would agree with young Simba’s culinary assessment of jungle bugs as being “slimy yet satisfying” in The Lion King, the truth is that insects are a very healthy food. Whole insect powder is up to 65% protein, chock full of amino and omega acids with very little sugar; it’s a great sustainable source of nutrition. We often see 3D printing used to help with sustainability initiatives and sustainable products and projects, and we’ve just learned about a new project from a Northumbria University student who worked with 3D Hubs to get the ball rolling with his sustainable insect project.

George Fisher-Wilson, the 3D Hubs Communications Manager, told that this 3D printing project, “has the potential to get the future generation eating more sustainably by creating a fun way to eat more bugs.”

Northumbria student Jay Cockrell, whose project is a recent entrant for the 3D Hubs Student Grant, is using 3D printing to tackle the issue of providing a sustainable food source for the world’s population, which is set to reach 10 billion people by the year 2025. Fisher-Wilson calls the project “inspiring,” and it truly is.

Tastebugs is a stackable, five-part kitchen utensil for kids. While it is toy-like, the modular appliance is completely functional, and gives the younger generation a way to get more familiar with handling, preparing, and consuming bugs.

Insects are incredibly sustainable, mostly because they can produce the same amount of protein as beef, but with 25 times less feed than cows, and a vastly reduced amount of energy and water.

Fisher-Wilson wrote in a 3D Hubs blog post, “This rise in conscious consumers paired with the obvious advantage of insects as food has led to edible insect market to be projected to be worth $80 million dollars by 2020.”

Cockrell started to think of how he could get children out of their edible comfort zones, and start to think of insects as a viable food source. While we’ve seen seen something similar accomplished through fun, edible 3D printed shapes, Cockrell wanted to develop something that would allow kids to play with and customize their buggy meals.

This was accomplished by creating Tastebugs, a modular design of 3D printed, stackable components, which can be attached and detached in multiple combinations to keep kids interested. There are a total of five components, which include all of the necessary tools to prepare a delicious insect snack.

There’s a funnel that can be used to get the bugs in position, and then a dicer to break them down into small bits. A mill component can make the bugs even finer, while an infuser is there to help make an insect stock. Finally, a compactor lets kids make snacks in familiar bar shapes…similar to a granola bar, but with insects instead.

“Access to the 3D Hubs Student program allowed Jay to produce his parts locally and affordably,” Fisher-Wilson tells us.

Cockrell chose 3D printing as the manufacturing method because it was the most affordable option, along with being the only way he could achieve the desired material finishes in the geometries necessary for the parts. If any new components are created for the appliance, or any of the parts break, new ones could be 3D printed on demand.

In addition to having a 25% student discount as part of the student program, Cockrell used 3D Hubs to source all of his parts because he had access to different kinds of materials and technologies in a single platform.

Both SLA and FFF 3D printing technologies were used to create Tastebugs. The transparent parts of each module’s side windows were made out of DSM Somos Watershed liquid photopolymer, which Fisher-Wilson says is “one of the best materials to use when creating transparent parts.”

Formlabs’ Standard Resin was used to 3D print the main housing for each of the five modules, giving them a smooth surface finish not dissimilar to what you’d see in a part made with injection molding. Then as a final touch, Cockrell wrapped the housings in a wood-like vinyl, so that the Tastebugs design would resemble a tree when all of the modules are stacked on top of each other.

Final attached parts, including the handles and the shovel accessory, were 3D printed in PLA, which was later post-processed for a clean finish. Using internal functional metal components, the 3D printed parts are then assembled to make the final Tastebugs product.

Fisher-Wilson tells, “The future of the product will be to get it tested further with its target market as more children learn about this new sustainable way to get your nutrients.”

The next logical phase for Tastebugs is for Cockrell to get the 3D printed invention into schools. There, he could start to educate students on why it’s beneficial to eat bugs, combining the information with his fun, stackable product geared towards kids. Over the next decade, as the world’s population continues to grow and sustainability becomes a more important part of consumers’ purchasing decisions, we could start to see these types of products in kitchens everywhere. Bon appétit!

The 3D Hubs Student Grant awards creative minds bringing innovative ideas to life; the 2018 contest is open now.

Would 3D printing technology persuade you to eat bugs? Discuss this product, and other 3D printing topics, at or share your thoughts below.

[Images via 3D Hubs]


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