Doritos has traded in so-called "3D" chips since the mid-nineties, but there's nothing particularly advanced about those cheese-dusted triangular snacks. However, as 3D printing technology continues to advance, the world of snack food is destined to see some pretty wild new innovations.
Researchers in Finland are hard at work on figuring how to improve snack foods with 3D printing, reports Science Daily, with "the long-term vision of developing high-tech vending machines that provide customized purchases." (Sure beats a bag of stale Chex Mix.)
Science Daily notes that "3D printing technology will enable the layer-by-layer manufacture of various structures, from crispy to soft gels that produce a distinctive mouthfeel," and if it sounds like researchers are just going to be making some high-tech version of Gushers, think again: The Finnish tech researchers are specifically aiming to produce healthy snacks. Said tech is still a ways off, however: In addition to developing materials (they're currently working on developing both plant- and dairy-based substances for printability), they've also got to design machinery capable of producing this stuff on an industrial scale.
While 3D printed food has yet to go fully mainstream, people across the globe are feverishly working to figure out how to best use the technology. A Dutch designer recently created 3D printed crackers that sprout their own greens, while the Army wants to use 3D printing to customize soldiers' diets in tandem with wearable tech to track their nutritional needs. The race to develop a 3D food printer that will be widely adopted for commercial and home uses is also on, with many already on the market or in the works that can print everything from sugar sculptures and Nutella to pizza.