Bananas have been referred to as “the perfect food.” Not only are they rich in nutrients but, in terms of form, they exemplify the perfect self-contained packaging and delivery systems. Who doesn’t enjoy peeling a banana and admiring its ingenious design? Not content to leave well enough alone, 3DigitalCooks, a website devoted to making and reporting “digital gastronomy news” has conceived of a new way to approach the banana.
Printing With Bananas, 3DC’s recent project, combines the smoothie fad with 3D printing. After extolling the nutritional virtues of the banana, 3DC’s banana-based blog entry describes the process through which they 3D printed with bananas. Probably not surprisingly, the consistency of the banana, although ideal for smoothies, proved problematic. Extruding the pureed banana was one thing. Even printing it layer by layer was not so challenging, but getting the end result to be anything but a puddle of formerly firm banana was difficult.
3DC solved the consistency problem by consulting the experts at the FoodDev section of Reddit, who recommended adding a thickener — potato starch proved to be the best — to the pureed bananas, ensuring that the printed end result would take a form other than unmanageable (and, frankly, unappealing) liquidy mess. However, the tendency of bananas to turn brown when exposed to air needed to be confronted, so the team added orange juice to counteract the darkening. The results were less than impressive and we’re wondering if nobody on the 3DC had a grandmother who could recommend lemon juice.
In any case, consistency issues were surmounted and the 3DC team got to work 3D printing. They experimented with temperatures and the amount of potato starch to water and orange juice proportions, and struggled over unsightly lumps and discoloration. Their solutions are provided at the end of the blog, although, clearly, anyone willing to take up the torch and 3D print their own banana-flavored delicacies is encouraged to experiment with recipes, temperatures, and consistency.
Although the “Printing With Bananas” blog entry doesn’t provide information about the equipment 3DC uses to produce their 3D-printed digital edibles, their site explains that they use PLYUMP, an open hardware peristaltic extruder, which is designed for use with 3D printers. Luis Rodriguez Alcalde, founder of 3DigitalCooks, describes the evidently aggravating process of finding the best extruder for the team’s purposes. Unable to find a suitable existing extruder, he set about designing and creating his own; the PLYUMP currently in use is version 0.43.
In addition to 3D printing bananas, 3DC’s collaborators, from Amsterdam to Portland, have shared their own digital edibles projects. There’s the “Bot-B-Q,” an open source 3D printing barbecue from Frankfurt, Germany, “Laser Cooking” using a laser cutter as a dry-heating cooking device from the Fukuchi Lab in Japan, and from Texas, 3D printed “Piq Chocolates” with personal inscriptions, plus a range of other links to digital food prep sites making 3DC definitely worth perusing even if the projects aren’t feasible due to your own limitations — equipment, palate, or otherwise.
Have you ever tried 3D printing with banana puree? How about any other foods? Let’s hear your thoughts in the 3D Printing & Bananas forum thread on 3DPB.com.