3D Printing of Cheese and R&D Tax Credits

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The present-day consumer looks for convenience, flavor, authenticity and freshness of foods. Consumers are more in control of their shopping experience since they have the ability to explore, research and share every purchase that they make. Scientists, engineers, restaurants and other food related businesses are looking for ways to produce food in more cost-effective, efficient ways. Those who engage in additive manufacturing in the dairy market may be eligible for R&D Tax Credits.

The Journal of Food Engineering explores how 3D printing affects the structure of processed cheese. Cheese is a dairy food that is pressed from milk curds. Production of cheese varies on how unripe (fresh) or how ripened (aged) cheese may be. Cheese consists of many nutrients such as calcium, various proteins, and vitamins. Today, engineers and scientists have discovered that 3D printed cheeses can be an alternative to traditional cheese production and cheese-based foods.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

Enacted in 1981, the now permanent Federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit that typically ranges from 4%-7% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:

  • Must be technological in nature
  • Must be a component of the taxpayer’s business
  • Must represent R&D in the experimental sense and generally includes all such costs related to the development or improvement of a product or process
  • Must eliminate uncertainty through a process of experimentation that considers one or more alternatives

Eligible costs include US employee wages, cost of supplies consumed in the R&D process, cost of pre-production testing, US contract research expenses, and certain costs associated with developing a patent.

Recently scientists compared 3D printed cheese to processed cheese. 3D printed cheese turned out to be softer, springier and more fluid when it was melted. Scientists also found that the 3D printed cheeses turned out to be darker and less sticky than untreated cheese. Scientists say that in kitchens of the future, 3D printers will most likely be as commonplace as refrigerators. Also, many other foods may be printed and then end up on our plates.

(L to R) Untreated cheese, melted cheese, high speed printed cheese, and low speed printed cheese

Scientists at University College Cork in Ireland have been experimenting with how 3D printing can change the properties of cheese. Processed cheese comes from mixing a blend of cheeses with butter or whey, vegetable oil, proteins, salts and water. The original product had started as a protein network that keeps the object solid with spherical dots of fats. However, when the cheese is melted, there are larger spherical fat globs. So, when the cheeses are 3D printed, the cheeses have breaks in their protein networks and these differences in structure have led to the cheeses’ softer textures.

The experiment was carried out where untreated, melted and printed cheeses were printed at rates of 4 or 12 ml/min. Cheeses were melted at temperatures of 75 degrees Celsius and the products that came through the printer turned out to be more “meltable.” For both types of cheeses, the cheese samples were less hard by about 49%. As a result, the scientists deduced that textural properties were affected more than the “meltable” cheeses.

Dutch Research Findings

Scientists and researchers at Wageningen University in Holland worked with FrieslandCampina, a large multinational dairy cooperative farm that prints cheeses with a machine. Campina is interested in producing sustainable foods by providing organic feed for their cows. They are working with the University to produce their cheeses more efficiently. The cheeses that were produced became more liquid and when printed the high cholesterol would be removed. The Laboratory of Food Processing Engineering determined that specific ingredients are needed to produce the right texture and composition of cheese when it was inserted into the 3D printer. The scientists and engineers discovered that the best way to 3D print cheeses were by dry fractionation which consists of controlling the cooling of oil and crystallization of the cheese. The process includes water extraction, ultra-filtration and gel filtration. This process will involve the separation of peptides from the cheese. The liquid that remains is separated from the solid fraction by filtration. The lab is still investigating the functionality of 3D printed cheeses; however, they hope to produce the food technology of the future.

Cornell University

Cornell University students introduced the Fab@Home model1 machine as an open source design tool to print food from a liquid form. They believe that with 3D printing capabilities the designing of foods will be more elaborate in many cases. Also, additive manufacturing will provide other options to produce food with different textures and nutritional values. At the university, designers and scientists are teaming up to develop alternative ways to produce cheese from its liquid form. Printing a liquid form will allow the design of custom pieces of cheese versus eating a processed slab of cheese. They expect that soon restaurants will be serving various shaped cheeses provided by a 3D printer.

Columbia University

Columbia University has developed a 3D printer that is capable of printing and cooking multiple ingredients at the same time. The printer is easy to operate by simply inserting a cartridge into the printer and a few minutes later a full breakfast can be printed. Columbia University recently collaborated with a New York culinary school to experiment with the printing of various foods. Scientists and chefs realized that the printing of various cheeses was an easy process. The new generation of food printers provides an opportunity for designers to print the exact calorie count and type of food they desire. Cheeses can be printed in various shapes yet still have the needed calcium content for the consumer. Columbia University believes that 3D printing will be able to revolutionize kitchens.


Additive manufacturing is considered the next industrial revolution and has a great potential to construct foods in the dairy market. People are looking for healthier alternatives. Cheese is essential for healthy living and serves as an essential source of calcium. It is a great source of protein and has high amounts of vitamins A and B12, along with zinc, phosphorus, and riboflavin. Research labs and scientists are adopting innovative technologies for food production. Engineers, chefs and scientists who are involved with 3D printing technologies may be eligible for R&D Tax Credits.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

Charles Goulding and Alize Margulis of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printed cheese.  


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