Coming real soon: the NASA-funded food replicator

Replicators, fictional devices that create food from thin air, are now one step closer to our sad reality thanks to NASA. According to, the US-based space institute is offering US$125 000 to the first individual who can who can bring a 3D-printed food solution into our reality. And thanks to a machine that uses “food cartridges” created by mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor, food replication just took one giant leap for mankind. Watch this and try not to be amazed.

Contractor said in an interview recently that “I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12-billion people sufficiently. So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.” Is this machine the answer? Contractor’s company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation got the US$125 000 from NASA, plus six months to create a prototype of food maker. His grant though, is intended to create a food system ideal for astronauts venturing into long-term space journeys.

3D printer schematic

Here’s how Contractor envisions his printer

Contractor calls his machine the “Pizza Printer” as it prints the food in layers, making it ideal for the wonderful circular dough that sustains most of us. A layer of dough is printed, followed by the tomato base and then the ingredients, a “protein layer” which probably tastes as disgusting as it sounds. As the layer of dough is printed, a metal plate heats and bakes the base. There’s a nod towards eating well, as contractor explains that 3D printed food can program in the dietary needs of any person.

Contractor wants to keep his project open-source, and this extends to the recipes which will simply be a set of instructions that tells the machine how much food mix to spray out, at what quantity and in what position. But the design of this prototype (which is still heavily in development) extends far beyond the NASA-funded concept. Contractor’s goal is to turn his food replicator into a machine that will fit into any kitchen or business. The 3D food printer is still just a naughty twinkle on Contractor’s hard drive though, so for now we can only watch the pre-pre-alpha prototype device and dream of a future of replicated nachos.

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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