How do you like your milk? Printed?!

STEAM UPDATE: Researchers have developed a simple method to 3D print milk products.


Source: Photo taken on campus

In a recent article by Science News, published on September 18, 2020, ‘researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) developed a method that allowed them to perform direct ink writing (DIW) 3D printing of milk-based products at room temperature, while maintaining its temperature sensitive nutrients’ (ScienceDaily, 2020).

Why this new method?

So you may be wondering, what is the benefit of 3D printed milk? Well, 3D printed food can provide the control necessary to put a custom amount of protein, sugar, vitamins, and minerals into the foods we consume. However, it is typically done through methods that require a very high temperature, such as selective laser sintering and hotmelt extrusion methods. Many products contain  nutrients, such as calcium and proteins, which are sensitive to temperature . Milk is one of these products , so researchers focused on ways to do so. Importantly, this is for the purpose of finding new methods in order to be able to control the nutrients through 3D printing other temperature sensitive foods.

How they did it:

The research team from SUTD’s Soft Fluidics Lab, changed the rheological properties (the material properties that govern the specific way in which materials deform or flow, and how it occurs), of printing ink. Next, they demonstrated DIW 3D printing of milk by cold extrusion (a compressive forming process where the starting material is billet and the process is carried out at room temperature), with a single milk product- powdered milk.

What they found:

The team discovered that the concentration of milk powder allowed for the simple formulation of 3D printable milk inks using water to control the rheology.

According to the lead author and Ph.D. candidate from SUTD, Mr Lee Cheng Pau, “This novel yet simple method can be used in formulating various nutritious foods including those served to patients in hospitals for their special dietary needs.

Cold-extrusion does not compromise heat-sensitive nutrients and yet offers vast potential in 3D printing of aesthetically pleasing, nutritionally controlled foods customized for individual requirements,” added Assistant Professor Michinao Hashimoto, the principal investigator of the study.

Student and Teacher Opinions:

Ms Hickox says, “It is probably not for me.”

Megan Schackman, an ex-vegan says, “Why not! But if I had a different option, I would choose regular milk”.