Veggie burger made with Foodini
The military is already ahead of the curve when it comes to utilising additive manufacturing and is arguably one of the most talked about industries adopting the technology with particular interest in their developments in weapon engineering.
Only six months after 3D Systems first revealed a 3D printer capable of printing multi-coloured, sugar products, and the Foodini demonstrated its ability to print entire meals, the US Army is now investigating real and practical ways to use the technology to produce food for soldiers.
The US Army Natick Solider Research, Development and Engineering Centre (NSRDEC) want to use 3D printing as a way of supplying food on demand that is tailored to a soldier’s nutritional needs.
The technology would have several benefits including reducing costs, eliminating food waste and giving the option of a more varied menu for soldiers as military men and women would be able to print food as they require it.
Additive manufacturing would be used to target certain nutritional elements, essentially adding ingredients that cater to a specific need. In essence, if a soldier was lacking in protein, then food could be printed that provided a source of the nutrient in their diet.
Another proposed application would be to print snack items that can be processed to become shelf stable or packaged and used as rations. There is also talk of the possible implementation of a compact 3D printer that soldiers could carry with them enabling them to print their own food using ingredients supplied to them or materials they could forage for.
Whilst the production of food via 3D printing is a relatively new concept to the military, it is not the only initiative in the works that makes use of the technology. Whilst medical implementation including scanning injuries and regenerative bioprinting could prove extremely beneficial in the case of non-traditional injuries, we might also see future soldiers wearing 3D printed uniforms.