Researchers at University College Cork in Ireland recently published their findings on 3D printed cheese in the Journal of Food Engineering. Experimenting with processed cheese, scientists evaluated the effect 3D printing had on the texture, structure, and appearance of the resulting dairy product.
Typically, 3D printed products are made from plastic, nylon and metal, so printing with cheese offered new challenges regarding technique. Researchers tried multiple different types of cheeses, temperatures, and nozzles for printing.
“It [the ability to 3D print cheese] was a very speculative question which made me very curious,” said Alan Kelly, a professor in the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences at University College Cork in Ireland, in an article by Live Science. “We actually started by trying lots of cheese types, but found processed cheese to work best.”
They settled on using processed cheese because it is produced by mixing ingredients and molding them into a new shape, similar to the process the diary would go through in 3D printing. The composition of the final printed cheese was 25% fat, 3% carbohydrate, 18% protein, and 3% salt.
When it came to actually printing the newly formatted fromage, the researchers began by heating the cheese to 167 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Celsius) for 12 minutes (to make sure it was fluid enough to flow through the nozzle), and then tested printing it at two different extrusion rates (This means that they pushed it through the syringe in the printer at two different speeds). The scientists found that low-speed 3D printed cheese ended up with large, irregularly shaped fat globules, while the cheese printed at a higher speed had smaller, irregularly shaped fat globules, according to 3Ders.org.
Once the cheese had been successfully printed, researchers found it to be softer, darker, and more meltable than untreated cheese. Despite these findings, the scientists deemed that effect of the printing process doesn’t significantly impact the texture and structure of our favorite dairy product, which means 3D printed cheese is safe to eat. Though according to 3Ders.org, the researchers never actually tasted the printed product. The real question is: Would you eat 3D printed cheese?