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NASA Funding 3D Food Printer Research (The Replicator!?)

We've seen 3D printers do a lot already. Between weapons and jaw implants, the future of 3D printing certainly won't be boring. In fact, NASA is hoping the next step for 3D printing will be food.

NASA has invested over $100,000 in research into 3D printing food. Quartz reports that Systems and Materials Research Corporation in Austin is developing a 3D food printer in the hope that it would sustain astronauts on a manned mission to Mars. SMRC senior mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor is developing the food printer, which would use cartridges of powders and oils to synthesize food one layer at a time. Speaking to QZ, Contractor explained how his company's solution would work in space.

"Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life," Contractor is quoted as saying. "The way we are working on it is, all the carbs, proteins and macro and micro nutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out, and in that form it will last maybe 30 years."

First on the menu is pizza, which is already composed of layers of separate ingredients. Contractor will build his pizza printer in the next couple of weeks. When it's complete, it will print a layer of dough that will be cooked by a hot plate underneath. Next will come tomato base, which is made of a powder, water and oil mixture. Of course, it's not pizza without cheese or pepperoni but here's where it get's a little bit weird. On top of the pizza sauce is a so-called 'protein layer' that can be made of meat, milk, or plants. Uh, yum.

Quartz reports that Contractor's prototype and the machine responsible for winning him the NASA grant was actually a chocolate printer.