Cooking is out, printing is in

Liz and Kyle von Hasseln were still in graduate school when they wanted to surprise their friend Chelsea with a birthday cake. They went to the store and bought all the ingredients but when they returned home, they realized there was no oven in the tiny student apartment they had just moved into. “But we did have a 3D-printer”, Kyle von Hasseln recounted at the TEDx Manhattan Beach conference. “Would it be possible to print a cake instead?”, he wondered. The couple experimented with different ratios of sugar and water to print their friend’s name in 3D. After months and months of trial and error, well past Chelsea’s birthday, they succeeded.

This was the start of Sugar Lab, a company that developed a way to print fancy sugar cubes, wedding cake toppers and intricate structures for drinks or desserts. It wasn’t long before 3D Systems, one of the largest manufacturers of 3D printers for industrial applications, took notice. 3D Systems acquired Sugar Labs in September 2013. The details of the deal were not disclosed but the fact that a heavy weight like 3D Systems bought the company is a clear indication that 3D food printing is more than a fad. 3D Systems plans to integrate the food printer named Chefjet into their commercial and consumer product lines for bakeries, food manufacturers and people who like to print sugary treats at home.


While many 3D food printing start-ups focus on chocolates and desserts, the PERFORMANCE project coordinated by the German company Biozoon Food Innovations GmbH is currently developing one product line as a pilot project for the special needs of the elderly. Many people in the later decades of their lives have trouble chewing and swallowing real food and have so far relied on blended, mushy food that may be nutritious but is hardly appetizing.

PERFORMANCE is focusing on real food – meat, chicken, vegetables and potatoes – and special gels and foams, so called texturizers, to create meals that look like real food but are easy to swallow. PERFORMANCE is part of an EU initiative that encourages innovation in small and medium size businesses (SME) such as Biozoon or Foodjet, as Biozoon’s project manager Sandra Forstner explained in an interview on the Munchie’s blog.

Lammbraten_Copyright Biozoon GmbH

Researchers at the Organization for Applied Scientific Research in the Netherlands have taken their quest to print nutritious food even further. They are extracting protein, carbohydrates and micronutrients from algae, seaweed and insects to print food that resembles meat or chicken. While this may sound like the Tofurky, a soy-based vegetarian turkey substitute, researchers see real promise in food printed from protein that is low on the food chain.

Algae require less land, water, energy, fertilizer and labor than livestock and even some of the meat substitutes such as soy and corn. Researchers hope that this will eventually lead to a more sustainable food supply for a growing population. The British researcher Susana Soares and their team think along similar lines. They use ground insects as one ingredient in a paste that is used to print edible 3D objects like butterfly wings or honeycomb structures.

While meals made with crushed insects may not be everyone’s favorite, the food giant Nestle is also working on improved nutrition. Nestle’s research division, the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS) is working on a way to analyze the level of several nutrients in a person’s body. The researchers plan to develop a way to print personalized food according to a person’s nutritional needs and preferences, according to a Bloomberg article.

This, however, may be years away. People who don’t want to wait that long may have a chance to enjoy a 3D printed meal in December. The Spanish company Reimagine Food will serve 3D dinners in Barcelona and New York. Not only the meals but also the dishes and cutlery will be printed as well as the rooms the dinners are served in. While this may sound appealing, it comes with a hefty price tag at around 205 000 USD per person. The good news? Dinner will be served by robots – no tip expected.



Future Links July 18th 2014

Print supplier expanding
RTI Digital has strengthened its worldwide presence by expanding its global reseller network. They have recently added Adkote, CMYUK, Druma and Printingworld among others as partners.
More at FESPA

New printing device management
Sepialine has introduced Printerpoint, a Cloud-based Device Management and MPS Solution, for the wide format printing market that is supposed to give dealers a simple way to manage supplies, track device usage and analyze print behavior remotely.
More at Sepialine

Portable zero ink printer
The portable printer Zink allows you to print photos directly from a smartphone without the use of ink. This works through a patented paper that activates the color-forming crystals embedded within the paper itself when heated by the device.
More at Ippinka

Technology award for Esko
Esko platemaking system and their solution for the implementation of extended gamut printing will both receive Printing Industries of America InterTech Awards 2014.
More at the Labelling Blog

Edelmann investing in Hungary
Packaging group Edelmann will move into a new production center in Hungary. They have been in the country since acquiring the second largest Hungarian packaging manufacturer Zalai Nyomda in 2010.
More at Packaging Europe

The art of package manufacturing
This article deals with the challenge of getting every department properly involved in the development and manufacturing process of a packaging design. For example, Barilla has implemented a paperless solution to streamlines the artwork and label creation process.
More at Apriso

Mondi growing in North America
The international packaging and paper group Mondi expands its high-speed inkjet paper distribution with new warehouses in Dayton, Chicago and Los Angele. With this, the company wants to focus on offering local inventory options in North America.
More at What They Think

Label training program
In 2012, the FINAT Board had started a new initiative to align education and training programs for operators in the label industry. Now they are planning the launch of the label Academy, a range of education and training e-learning and support modules.
More at FlexoGlobal

China going green
According to research from HIS, China no longer wants to be the world’s dumping ground for plastic waste.  This is why recyclers in Europe and other countries must improve their recycling technology processes.
More at Food & Beverage Packaging

Waste for 3D printers
Picking the right plastic off a refuse tip printers has become a living for some of India’s poorest people. Protoprint has introduced a scheme to train local pickers in Pune to collect high-density polyethylene plastic waste and then show them how convert that plastic into the feedstock for 3D printing.
More at New Scientist

New packaging director
DS Smith has promoted Gareth Jenkins as managing director of its UK Packaging Division. He had joined the company 20 years ago and held more than 10 different roles.
More at Printweek


Ink’s environmental footprint

Environmentally friendly inks have been attracting a lot of attention in recent years. A myriad of solutions has hit the marketplace, promising less water use, renewable raw materials or organic components. While many of the claims are true, a closer look at the environmental impact of the so-called green inks reveal a different picture.

“Printing has an environmental impact, yet in 2014 it has generally improved on previous years with less waste, lower energy and water consumption associated”, says Sean Smyth, Print Consultant at Smithers Pira in an email interview. “However, some of the claims do not really stand up”, he points out, adding that a neutral scientific approach would be useful but so far, there is no single accepted source to conduct such a review. Information about the ecological value of inks is often provided by printers or ink manufacturers and in many instances, they use environmental performance as part of their marketing, which can lead to misconceptions.

As European Printing Ink Association (EuPIA) highlights in its publication “The environmental impact of printing inks”, some terms like “water-based” or “vegetable oil based systems” carry positive associations, yet in some instances, these products have less of an overall beneficial environmental impact than previously thought.

The EuPIA paper contains a chart that gives a broad overview of the environmental effects of different printing technologies, using a traffic-light color scheme. EuPIA emphasizes that this table only shows the relative impact and may be simplistic in some of its generalizations. To assess the environmental consequences of each ink and printing technique, a life-cycle analysis is necessary, taking into account raw materials, manufacture, application, in-use and disposal.

Print analyst Smyth provides an example of what a thorough analysis may reveal: “The replacement of solvent by water-based inks seems to be environmentally beneficial but may require a higher energy input to dry, resulting in an overall higher carbon footprint.”

Likewise, the use of soy ink can have some unintended consequences: “Petroleum resources are seen as bad, but the use of renewable resources has led to change in agriculture away from food crops in some regions, with forestry clearance for cash crops to yield bio-oils, solvents and resins and this can lead to medium to long-term damage”, says Smyth.

There are also varying specifications for different inks regarding the amount of soy the ink needs to contain to qualify for the Soy Seal logo from the American Soybean Association ranging from six to 40 %. The reason for this is technical: If a specific ink contains too much soy oil, it will not dry properly.

There have also been concerns about heavy metals in inks. The four toxic metals cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, and mercury are covered by the EuPIA exclusion list, which is based on a voluntary self-regulation effort by the industry. EuPIA concedes that trace levels of these materials may still be present in raw materials but only in concentrations below levels that trigger classifications as a hazardous material.

After looking at a few of these issues, it quickly becomes clear that no single perfect solution exists.  “As with all environmental issues there are interest groups and pressure groups pushing their views,” says Smyth.  “What is needed is an independent scientific approach to determine the real cradle-to-grave analysis, comparing the performance of different types of ink.”

And even this may not provide one clear answer as several factors such as energy use in the drying process vary depending on the substrate. Still, some progress regarding the environmental impact of inks has been made in recent years. The rise of Corporate Social Responsibly and Sustainability Reporting reflects a change in attitude of the big brands and organizations and it is likely that the demand for environmentally friendly solutions will drive further innovations.


Future Links July 17th 2014

Printing circuit boards
A Kickstarter campaign by the company BotFactory features a new 3D product called Squink. The specialized printer allows users to print their own circuit boards with conductive ink onto a substrate.
More at 3D Print

Packaging impacted by mailing drop
Sales at the largest privately owned printed envelope manufacturer in the UK have dropped by 10.5 % in the year to November 2013. Encore Envelopes accounts for this with the nationwide decline in mailings.
More at The Journal

Russian 3D investment
Zecotek Photonics, a developer of photonics technologies for medical, industrial and scientific markets, will acquire 20 % of Aquarius’ wholly owned subsidiary, Zecotek Display Systems. This investment is supposed to complete the commercialization of 3D displays for flat and large screen formats and a high-speed 3D printer for rapid prototyping.
More at Zecotek

Printed electronics cloud
A new agreement brings together printed electronics and cloud software. Together Thin Film Electronics ASA, a developer of printed electronics, and EVRYTHNG, a software company, intend to make everyday objects smarter by connecting them to the web.
More at Market Watch

New Indian packaging facility
US-based West Pharma Packaging has launched a manufacturing plant in SriCity, India. This is part of their expansions plans in primary packaging for injectable medicines.
More at Business Standard

Another government 3D funding
The UK Government will invest 154m £ in aerospace research projects for wings, engines, aircraft structures and radio communications. 49m £ go to a GKN-led project to produce the first ever lightweight aircraft metallic parts.
More at 3Ders

Russian printer invests in Heidelberg
Russian folding carton print shop has bought equipment from Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. PROMIS is a leading manufacturer of folding cartons and the accompanying packaging inserts for the Russian pharmaceutical industry.
More at Heidelberg

Successful patent lawsuit
Recently, Xerox had supported raids and prosecutions around the world confiscating fake products. Now Canon has announced another progress in fighting patent infringement in the printing industry. Their lawsuit against Nectron International has been successfully closed.
More at Canon

Study on de-inking
Fogra has published a report on the de-inkability of nine newsprint, coated and uncoated papers on digital ink-jet machines. As a result, half of the paper and printer combinations received the rating of ‘good’ and one failure was noted.
More at Output Magazine

Fashion 3D Printing
For the first time, a conference for fashion resources will feature 3D printing among its seminar sessions. The event at the SOURCING will inform members of the fashion world about the possibilities that 3D printing offers their design process.
More at 3D Printing Industry