Three-dimensional (3D) printing technology has been utilised across various fields such as environmental fields, medical systems, and military materials. Recently, the 3D food printing global market has shown a high annual growth rate and its market size is expected to reach USD 1 billion by 2027. Key factors driving this industry growth include rising demand for customised food products and increasing adoption in various end-use industries. Users can apply 3D food printing technology in various food ranges based on the advantages of designing existing food to suit one’s taste and purpose, sustainability, and healthcare. Currently, many countries worldwide produce various 3D food printers, developing special foods such as combat food, space food, restaurants, floating food, and elderly food. The 3D food printing technology industry is in its early stages; hence awareness is low. Various healthcare cases are using 3D food printing technology to serve various needs. For instance, 3D-printed food can feed the elderly and those with chewing or swallowing difficulties, such as patients with stroke, progressive dementia and those who might be too frail to eat. But most pureed food does not look appetising and may be rejected by patients, resulting in malnutrition. This is where 3D-printed food can be created in appealing shapes while being pureed and containing the necessary nutrients. Dieticians could make personalised, palatable, and visually presentable pureed food to enable a dignified and pleasurable experience dining experience that is affordable every time. 3D food printing technology is expected to become a new trend in the new normal era after COVID-19. Compared to other 3D printing industries, 3D food printing technology has a relatively small overall 3D printing utilisation and industry size because of problems such as insufficient institutionalisation and limitation of standardised food materials for 3D food printing. Hence, the growth potential of this novel industry is very high. In addition, 3D food printing will contribute to global sustainability efforts by utilising food waste such as bread, fruits, and vegetables to create recipes that can be 3D-printed and still be edible. Finally, new food alternatives such as protein alternatives can come from plants or insects. Meat can also be bio-printed by the proliferation of cells.
Professor Chua Chee Kai is the Associate Provost for Research and Cheng Tsang Man Chair Professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). He is also the Director of the Centre for Healthcare Education, Entrepreneurship and Research at SUTD (CHEERS). Prof Chua’s research area is in 3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping or Additive Manufacturing. He is the foremost expert in Singapore in this area and was awarded the prestigious International Freeform and Additive Manufacturing Excellence (FAME) Award in 2018. Prof Chua is also the most published and most cited scientist in “Rapid Prototyping / Additive Manufacturing” (3D Printing) according to the Web of Science. He has published in more than 500 international journals, conference papers, books, book chapters and patents. Prof Chua has also obtained more than S$60 M grants, including as PI, S$42 M for the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing, S$9.9 M for the Nanyang Additive Manufacturing Centre and S$5.5 M for the Institute for Sports Research. He is currently the Editorial board member of the International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Rapid Prototyping Journal & Journal of Materials Processing Technology and Editor-in-Chief of Virtual & Physical Prototyping, as well as Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Bioprinting. He was previously from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) where he was a Full Professor and previous Chair of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He was also the Executive Director of the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing from 2014 to 2019. He joined SUTD as Head of Pillar for Engineering Product Development (EPD) from 2019 – 2022.