Sushi is widely popular in the dining industry which is most likely due to the various options of simple to complex sushi rolls. Consumers are always looking for the next “foodie” trend and 3D printing sushi may be the next big thing. While traditional 3D printers use plastics, food 3D printers use food ingredients to produce edible creations. Chefs, scientists, and businesses that use 3D printers in the culinary industry to develop new food products are eligible for R&D Tax Credits.
The Research & Development Tax Credit
Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
- New or improved products, processes, or software
- Technological in nature
- Elimination of uncertainty
- Process of experimentation
Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.
Recently, a digital food startup, Open Meals, introduced 3D printed 8-bit sushi at the South by Southwest Film and Music Festival. Open Meals uses a 3D printer to assemble tiny edible blocks into a sushi shape. The company has created a digital platform called Food Base that stores data such as flavor, shape, color, nutrients and texture in order to recreate each type of food. Food Base is essentially an open source platform that will allow people to search, download and upload food data. Open Meals sets up printers in a way that allows data to be received from a remote location and then used to print a detailed sushi item; Open Meals likes to refer to this process as “Sushi Teleportation”. In the future, Open Meals wants to send meals to astronauts in space or enable chefs on a cooking show to 3D print food and send its data directly to its viewers. Although the idea of 3D printed sushi is exciting, the technology still has room for improvement. For example, the taste can be improved on and the size of the edible blocks can be decreased to get it closer to looking like real food.
Duncan Shotton is a Tokyo production designer who created a line of soy sauce dipping dishes called Soy Shape which turn soy sauce into an optical illusion. One dish design turns soy sauce into an image of a Penrose triangle while another dish displays the illusion of a stack of 3D cubes. Prototypes for various dishes were made with 3D printers and it took two years of research and development for Soy Shape to reach the crowdfunding stage.
Philippe Malouin is a British-Canadian designer who has created 3D printed plates and bowls called Dunes. Dunes are made of sugar based material that Malouin can mold to his will. He even engineered his own 3D printer to produce his creations. Malouin specializes in creating fine china such as plates, soup bowls and sauce dishes. The company 1882 Ltd hired Malouin to design and create a mass-produced fine china that has a unique texture from using sugar as its structure. This new way of making tableware could enable designers to create ceramics that they weren’t able to make using traditional methods. Restaurants can use these minimalistic serving dishes to accompany sushi and other Japanese delicacies.
3D printers have the ability to produce everything from custom tableware to actual food. Specialized 3D printers are only being used in a few restaurants, but companies like Open Meals want to make 3D printing as easy as downloading a song from iTunes. 3D printing has a ton of potential in the culinary industry and is slowly being utilized by companies to experiment with developing new food products and tableware.
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Charles Goulding and John Chin of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printed sushi.