Never wanted to eat your greens? What if the spinach on your plate had been in the shape of a dinosaur? Researchers at the Cornell Creative Machine Labs (CCML) are working creating 3-D printer technology capable of making liquefied foods into any sort of shape imaginable, ready for cooking, baking, or frying. Instead of painstakingly crafting a food into a certain shape by hand, one could design a shape on the computer and print it out. The researchers made scallop nuggets shaped like little space shuttles and corn chips in the shape of a flower that could be fried and eaten. Researchers can also print hamburger patties filled with ketchup and mustard, or intricate desserts like cakes that when cut expose a company’s logo or initials.

Recently, Jeffery Ian Lipton, who is part of the CCML team, has developed a novel method of printing the food called stochastic or squiggle printing.

This technique gives the researchers control over the texture of the printed food and opens up the possibility of incorporating new textures into commonplace foods. The researchers believe that their work could be used in restaurants to allow chefs to quickly create new dishes and to provide alternative ways of making healthy food taste better or appear more appetizing. Jamil Yosefzai, the founder of a company developing a commercial 3-D food printer, envisions a future where 3-D food printers will be an “essential part of everyone’s kitchen”. So in several years, making a ham sandwich for lunch might be as simple as clicking a mouse.

A video of the 3-D printing process: