Reflections

We got 4 weeks’ time to create a 3D printer capable of printing artificial meat in shape and texture resembling a chicken breast. A very short time for a pretty hard task. Using our time efficiently however, we managed to get a lot done in just these 4 weeks. The main reason for this is that we had clear goals that could realistically be reached within the time limit.

Goals

  • Find a recipe that is extrudable in a most optimal way
  • Find the best way to solidify each layer
  • Create a printerhead that is able to extrude the recipe
  • Scan a chicken breast to create a 3D model
  • Print a chicken breast

The goals were reached in the order listed above right in time for the Science Exposition on the 27th of October. We accomplished what we did due to a lot of things that went better than we expected.

A smooth ride

Scanning the chicken breast went very well by using the easiest of methods. Combining pictures from lots of angles gave us a high quality realistic 3D model. The printing of the chicken went better than any of us had expected. The recipe allowed itself to be extruded in very narrow lines. This made it possible for us to really create a macro fibrous structure inside the 3D printed product. The final prints also turned out better than we had hoped. The touch and feeling very much resembled real meat and even the color was somewhere close to what it should be. Also flavor wise we made some first good steps. Some people really enjoyed tasting the pieces of 3D printed “chicken”. Of course every good project has some bumps in the road.

 

Obstacles

We have had a hard time getting a smooth and constant extrusion. We think this is due to inconsistency of the recipe. Now and then the nozzle gets clogged or the extruded line varies in thickness. The recipe needs more attention in the future to overcome this problem. A possible solution would be to use a different way of mixing, or lengthen the mixing time. Another obstacle was flavor. We tried using some chicken aroma’s that we got from a vegetarian snackbar. This did not add the flavor we we’re hoping for. We also tried using chicken spices from a local groceries store and this did give it some resembling flavor. However, the spices only affect the outer layer of the treated product. Overcoming these obstacles is only one of the many things that can be done in the future.

Future research

Because we mainly focused on getting a resembling texture and shape we did not have time to get in depth on flavor, which of course is a very important part for resembling real meat. That is why a lot more research should be done on getting a resembling flavor. A possible way to get a better flavor is by adding it in the recipe before printing. This way every part of the printed “meat” will taste the same. Further opportunities are: Optimizing the printer head (a needle at the moment), creating a more solid extruder, experiment with the salt solution to get it perfect and finding the exact amount of salt solution that should be sprayed onto each layer. The 3D printer could also be greatly improved by adding an autonomous spraying actuator, ensuring a higher precision because of less human interference.

Market possibilities

3D printed meat has several market possibilities. The fiber structure which can be created by 3d printing has no resemblance in the current market. Using this technique the macro structure of the meat replacer could become much better. First of all it has low investment costs and a lots of opportunities. The 3D printing could be done at home at people by themselves, but also in mass production at a factory. A possibility would be to attach several printing heads onto one 3D printer. This way much more could be printed in the same time using one printerDSC_1679

All in all our eyes have been opened to the possibilities of meat replacers and the ability to print them. Because of the good collaboration of each team member we were able to accomplish more than any of us had thought possible.

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