The Cultivator conceptual machine designed for 3D printing meat on-demand
If there is one segment of the additive manufacturing industry that has seen some of the more wild concepts within the past few years, 3D printed meat would definitely rank among the higher on the list.
While there have been multiple efforts towards creating lab-grown meat for applications ranging from hamburgers to “steak chips”, none of these technologies have actually been introduced or even been presented as a viable technology for consumers as of yet.
More recently, a pair of students wants to change this and has created a conceptual prototype 3D printer designed for kitchen countertops that people could use to create meat on-demand within the confines of their own kitchen.
Created in Germany by University of Applied Sciences Schwäbisch Gmünd students Sarah Mautschand Aaron Abentheuer as an open source prototype, the Cultivator is intended to help fuel the discussion and efforts towards advancing the future of 3D bioprinting for food production. Although their machine is built around food production, it leverages existing bioprinting technologies that are being used by biomedical engineers for medical purposes such as developments towards cultivating human organs.
"This is a speculative design project, so the device itself is not production ready," says Abentheuer.
"But considering this technology exists today (although it is very expensive), one can imagine that technology will evolve, get cheaper and smaller to produce, so something like Cultivator can definitely exist in 10 to 30 years time in the kitchen of the future."
The design duo’s current design iteration is based on the assumed development of the open source technology over the next ten to thirty years and is made from both acrylic glass and deep-drawn polystyrene.
Among other user-considered features of the Cultivator include the ability to be programmed around a user’s daily dietary requirements and taste preferences with built-in nutritional data sets. A built-in nutritional tool, called the Adapt Nutritional Values tool, would enable users to adjust meat qualities including fat content and grain without sacrificing the taste or texture of the final product. Since the meat is produced from synthetic layered material, no bones or even specie origins are needed; the designers have even said that a checkered slab of multiple meat types such as a chicken and beef ‘steak’ is possible.
While the near-future of synthetic meat production is still uncertain, it has been receiving a considerable amount of attention - particularly from investors who are looking towards the “next big thing” in additive manufacturing technologies. Just earlier this year, Justin Rockefeller - the great-great-grandson of Stand Oil founder John D. Rockefeller - invested in 3D printed meat startup Modern Meadow after declaring that the company’s “Steak Chips” might be one of the food industry’s hot new items due to an increase in pressure on various supply chain constraints including unpredictable weather patterns and various environmental factors.