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Development of a 3D printer that contributes to the Digital Transformation of food — Realization of embedded edible data


Information such as expiration dates and allergen content is generally printed on non-food items such as packaging. If the information could be embedded in the food itself, it would be possible to check it until just before consumption. However, printing this information on the surface of the food would change its appearance. IT systems and robotics are now seeing applications in food technology. Food 3D printers are also being developed that can print food in three dimensions using paste-like ingredients, enabling internal structures to be freely produced.

A research group led by Professor Kosuke Sato and Assistant Professor Parinya Punpongsanon of the Graduate School of Engineering Science, Osaka University, have succeeded in a world first by embedding edible data in food using a 3D printer. Specifically, by placing different colored dough or blank spaces when making cookies, they produced a technology to embed 2D and other spatial codes inside foods without affecting their texture or strength.

A newly developed transmissive photography technique is used to irradiate light from the backside of a cookie to bring this internal spatial code to the surface and photograph it. Illuminating it with a fine black-and-white checkerboard pattern allows the code to be captured more clearly.

The results of this research will help enable the digital transformation of food products and can contribute to improving food safety and reducing food loss by improving food traceability. It is also likely to expand the possibilities for new food experiences combined with augmented reality, such as projection mapping various graphics on cookies.

The team established an internal structure design technology that does not reveal these internal 2D information patterns externally when cookie dough is baked and does not affect texture or strength. For example, embedding pairing information in a cookie could enable it to be linked to an IoT coffee maker to provide a matching beverage.

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