A few years ago, NASA commissioned a company called Anjan Contractor to build a 3D printer that could create a #Pizza. The idea was that future astronauts would carry the raw materials for food that would then be printed out into meals instead of the meals themselves, saving #Space. Even though the pizza printer was successful, the grant attracted the wrath of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, who, perhaps channeling the late William Proxmire, included it in his list of government waste. The grant money in short order dried up.
Anjan then decided to commercialize the technology, creating a company called BeeHex to market it. The idea is that audiences at concerts and sporting events and visitors at theme parks would be able to build custom made pizzas through a smartphone app. The pizza printer would, therefore, squirt dough, sauce, and cheese and create a ready custom made pizza in about four minutes, less than half the time that a human chef would take. If the concept works, it might find its way into restaurants and even home kitchens.
The company is also developing a printer that would create custom made chocolate confections, saw one in the shape of a person’s face or a figure from pop culture. Imagine going to the store and ordering up a made to order chocolate dessert.
The NASA-designed printer would create a variety of foods, using raw ingredients carried on a ship going to Mars or some other destination. For now, the BeeHex printer would be a specialized machine, churning out pizzas or chocolate confections on demand.
Of course, when and if, as scheduled, astronauts head to Mars in the 2030s, they will still need a way to create custom made, ready to eat meals on what is likely to be a years-long mission. By that time, it is entirely possible that 3D foot printers will be commercially available and would just need to be configured to work in microgravity. Thus, technology would take a circuitous route from initial research and development to commercial applications, and finally back to becoming part of NASA’s plans for deep space exploration. #3DPrinting