With 3-D printers coming of age, engineers are starting to expand the possible list of materials they might work with. The early work in food has been in making desserts – a Japanese company lets you order your sweetheart a creepy chocolate 3-D model of their head – but some researchers are already thinking of what comes next. The Fab@Home team at Cornell University has developed gel-like substances called hydrocolloids that can be extruded and built up into different shapes. By mixing in flavoring agents, they can produce a range of tastes and textures.
The ability to 3-D print meals could be particularly handy on long-duration space missions, said Terfansky. Food is a basic source of comfort to humans, who would be dealing with a high-stress environment during a trip to an asteroid or Mars. Monotony will be a major challenge for such endeavors and the ability to provide variety and change in diet could be key. Having a family member back on Earth be able to design a special meal for an astronaut, beam it to their spaceship, and have it prepared in space might help travelers deal with distance and loneliness.
A 3-D printer could mix vitamins and amino acids into a meal to provide nutrients and boost productivity. There are limitations to the types of fresh foods that can be grown in space – NASA says some of the best crops for a Mars mission are lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes. With that you could make a salad, but a 3-D printer could manufacture croutons or protein-dense supplements. The device could take up less space than a supply of packets of food and, because each item is custom built, would help cut down on waste.
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!
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Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.