back to article Tea, Earl Grey, hot! NASA blows $125k on Star Trek 3D FOOD PRINTER

A small company in Austin, Texas, has received a $US125,000 grant from NASA to develop 3D printed food for astronauts. The challenges are multifold – not least among them producing something palatable out of a printer – but the idea is that with enough development, NASA might be able to come up with something that beats the …


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  1. Don Jefe


    Any combination of yellow, green, orange, white, pink, clove or brown on a particleboard base. Warm to suit taste... Alternatively squirt nutrient juice directly on Necco Wafers.

    1. as2003

      Re: Flavors

      oh, and you have to wait 3 hours for each biscuit to be printed.

      1. Simon Harris

        Re: Flavors

        Will you get it for free if it takes longer than the advertised 3 hours?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Flavors

      I still won't eat anything that tastes of toner and inkjet ink.

      but I've never tasted inkjet ink

      Well, now is your chance then..

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Flavors

        In The Matrix the saying was that "everything tastes like chicken, which is why chicken tastes like anything". Maybe inkjet ink tastes like chicken.

  2. Ted 3


    I would make some sort of smart-ass comment, but all I can think of is a highly evolved, bipedal cat standing in front of this machine saying ""

    1. Thorne

      Re: Cat

      You can't call Cat highly evolved any more than the cast of "Jersey Shore". He was the son of the village idiot and a TV weather girl...

      1. Ted 3


        "You can't call Cat highly evolved..."

        I accept your criticism, but will respond by retrospectively correcting my original statement. I meant to say "highly evolved dress sense". There, happy?

        BTW, I forgot to add the link:

        1. Thorne

          Re: @Thorne

          Too slow chicken marengo

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cat

      "All six of my nipples are tingling!"

      1. tomban

        Re: Cat

        Rimmer: I said, "Touch nothing." Didn't I say, "Touch nothing?"

        Lister: Look, I just ordered a shake and a crispy bar.

        Cat: Lucky you didn't order a double cheeseburger!

    3. sisk

      Re: Cat

      Don't be ridiculous. The cat would clearly be saying "I can has cheezburger?"

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just like inkjet printers...

    ... they will soon run out of cheese and have only celery and bean flavors.

    1. Ted 3

      You got the wrong model!

      You gotta get the food printer with different flavours in different cartridges! The 4 flavours in the same cargridge is for noobs.

      Anyway, your analogy is apt. The flavour and micronutrients cartridges are also more than likely cost a lot more than even current injet cartridges. And as we all know, the ink contained wihin those have been calculated to cost more than gold (by weight).

      I thus had to laugh at the linked orginal proposal. Under the section marked 'POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS' (their shouting, not mine), they state "implementing technologies such as 3D printing, this may avoid food shortage, inflation, starvation, famine and even food wars". I think that is a slightly long bow to draw. I can't image this costing less than currently produced food.

      1. Why Not?

        Re: You got the wrong model!

        Key thing is that it will be cheaper and more appetising than the food they already take up.

        Cost is relative. The ingredients can be dry and the water used recycled decreasing weight at take off which can cost $4000 - $40,000 / kg.

        so a few kilos of weight saved will buy a lot of print heads.

        Plus the food will 'appear' fresh so will make happy astronauts.

        Also who is to say that the ingredients will be stored in expensive one off print heads, I suspect in 10 years time we will see chain Pizza restaurants selling printed pizzas ordered over the net. Probably delivered by robot scooters , they can't be any more of a danger than the existing pizza delivery riders!

    2. Ian Yates

      Re: Just like inkjet printers...


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just like inkjet printers...

        "PC Load Cheese"? What the f**k does that mean?

        1. Quxy

          Re: Just like inkjet printers...

          +++Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++

          1. Rampant Spaniel

            Re: Just like inkjet printers...

            There are days when that seems both correct and the best course of action :) Got to love TP, so sad he's saddled with his current embuggerance.

      2. Phil W

        Re: Just like inkjet printers...

        Pratchett reference deserves 50 upvotes. Sadly I may only give you one.

      3. Sarev

        Re: Just like inkjet printers...

        If it's anything like my printer, I'm betting you'll order a pizza and get 50 blank bases followed by the bottom third of a pizza.

  4. Winkypop Silver badge

    Forget the astronauts!

    Downloadable pizza (recipes) for geeks!!

  5. david 12 Silver badge

    handfull of generic ingrediants?

    Flour. Water. Cheese. Tomatoes.

    1. csumpi

      Re: handfull of generic ingrediants?

      You forgot yeast. I would love to see what yeast does in a weightless environment.

      1. Yag

        Re: handfull of generic ingrediants?

        heh... guess what? Seems like you were not the only one...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: handfull of generic ingrediants?

          Better load up the Cranberry Juice cartridges...

  6. Rattus Rattus

    This is a kinda cool project...

    ...but to be honest, I'd be quite happy to slurp cardboard-flavoured nutrient paste from a tube in exchange for a trip to the ISS.

  7. Robert Heffernan

    Primitive Food Replicator

    It sounds to me like a very primitive form of a "Star Trek" style food replicator. Walk up to the machine, tell it what you want and within a short time you have your freshly assembled meal ready to go.

    1. deshepherd

      Re: Primitive Food Replicator

      Can see problems coming (or should that be brewing) when they send the UK astronaut to the ISS in a couple of years time and he asks for a cup of burnt leaves in hot water!

      1. Phil Parker

        Re: Primitive Food Replicator

        Won't it break the onboard computer?

        Mine's the one with Hitchikers Guide in the back pocket...

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. hplasm

        Re: Primitive Food Replicator

        Earl Grey. Hot.

        That should do it.

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: Primitive Food Replicator

          Maybe you'd be surpised at receving a cup of tea when you actually wanted a sweating Viscount Howick.

          Maybe that's why Picard has to prefix his request with 'tea'!

      3. FrankAlphaXII

        Re: Primitive Food Replicator

        I think the Japanese will made very damned sure that NASA's had that issue sorted out.

        1. tomban

          Re: Primitive Food Replicator

          almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea...

  8. FunkyEric

    Print me a pizza, I'll be back for breakfast!

    Beer obviously as this goes so well with pizza :-)

    1. Mephistro

      "Beer obviously"

      How could they obtain beer in the ISS? Oh, wait...

  9. Kubla Cant

    The inkjet will handle “micronutrients, flavour and smell” ... but everything will taste like ink.

    Will it be able to produce "a concoction that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea"?

  10. Elmer Phud

    Is the recipe for the tomato-based topping an Open Sauce project?

  11. T. F. M. Reader

    Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser

    But will it produce something that is "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea"?

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser

      Share and Enjoy

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser

      "But will it produce something that is "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea"?"


      But on the upside they'll have it licked in 3-4 generations.

  12. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    Pot Noodle, Bombay Bad Boy, hot...

    If it's as slow as my Epson printer, by the time the printing of your "hot" Earl Grey has been completed... it'll be Earl Grey "cold".

    Also, it's not exactly printed in Star Trek is it; it just kind of materialises under a hue of cool blue light with sparkly shimmery bits in it.

    If this is the future of food then I'll pass thanks.

    1. MrXavia

      Re: Pot Noodle, Bombay Bad Boy, hot...

      More like original series food synthesisers!

      But for drinks, surely its more powder + hot water than real printing.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Pot Noodle, Bombay Bad Boy, hot...

      "Also, it's not exactly printed in Star Trek is it; it just kind of materialises under a hue of cool blue light with sparkly shimmery bits in it."

      That's been explained away a few times as a microtransporter, rather than a printer - however if you think about the way a transporter supposedly works... (You'll never allow yourself to be put through one again)

  13. Unicornpiss

    Printing in kale

    Imaging digging through your preferences to choose printing in single flavor mode because you're low on everything else. Cleaning the print head should have fairly disgusting results too...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Printing in kale

      Cleaning the print head should have fairly disgusting results too"

      That's what Lister and Rimmer are there for.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Printing in kale

        Pass me a 14B.

  14. Scott F. Gunelius


    Someone mentioned beer along with the assembled pizza? I just read about this beer concentrate. Our astronauts will be set:

  15. Chad H.

    If the printer itself costs £125k......

    Then the Cartridge must be somewhere around 200k......

    1. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: If the printer itself costs £125k......

      Unless you can somewhow refill them with your own ingredients.

      1. Midnight

        Re: If the printer itself costs £125k......

        Soylent Ink is people! It's PEOPLE!

  16. WibbleMe

    Space ginger Bread men Yay!

  17. Stoneshop

    "something palatable out of a printer"

    Sucking on their towels' corners getting a bit old?

  18. David 30

    Printer jam sandwiches

    Those astronauts are going to be mighty hungry the first time they have to wait 3 days for an engineer callout

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Food printer cartridges=future source of 50% of HP's profits?

    Choose correct Meg Whitman response below:

    A) Pressing fingertips together ala Montgomery Burns and breathily hissing "Excellent!"

    B) Stroke white Persian cat while watching liftoff of rocket bearing food printer

    C) Sitting in dark corner suite saying "Everything is transpiring as I have forseen...."

  20. Richard Cartledge
    Thumb Up

    I think you would need 7 heads and cartridges for flavours such as sour, ugami, sweet..... and one big one for Soylent as in yesterday's thread. Colour can be added with google glass.

  21. Chris 242

    Tea ! it's a spiritual thing

    Before we (the Brits) start anything a bit tricky ( i.e.fighting obscene amount of aliens) put the kettle on #1.

    and ponder

    During the course of fighting, aquire a mild effort induced glow.

    After the slaying of all said tricky stuff, put the kettle on. it's the british way.

    not a "whoop whoop" in sight , just the tinkle of spoon on the rim.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Food out of a printer

    Appearing soon on a Ryanair flight near you.

  23. kain preacher

    Printer on fire

    Naw that's just how it heats the food.

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. Chairo

    I guess this machine will be called

    "The Liberator" - for obvious reasons -

  26. James Rouse


    that is all.

  27. HippyFreetard

    Divide by cucumber. Out of cheese error.

    It's not all that much money, and could make it cheaper to get the 'nauts fed. Every ounce flown into space has an immense price tag. By the time a freeze-dried sterilised burger makes it to the ISS, it's worth more than gold.

    Some sort of green soy-lentil amalgamation perhaps? Although it would be very difficult to tell what was really in it. It could be people, or even worse - horse...

  28. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Uh oh - flying saucer alert

    I suspect that if the pizzas from such a machine are not edible, we will see a rise in UFO reports...

    1. kain preacher

      Re: Uh oh - flying saucer alert

      "I suspect that if the pizzas from such a machine are not edible"

      Naw public school lunch pizza then.

  29. Matt_payne666

    perfected the printing years ago...

    its ejecting the tasty morsels from the machine that requires work

    'Jam inside' errors used to occur regularly on one of my printers...

  30. RISC OS

    TOS Coloured Cubes

    I think they won't really have a replicate as such, more like a slot that opens and delivers plastic coloured cubes like in start trek the original series.

  31. Martin Budden Silver badge

    418 I'm a teapot

    If ever there was an opportunity to use this HTTP code, here it is!

  32. Anonymous Coward

    You realize what this means, don't you?


    My god, we're doomed! Not only will they be undetectable, but the vile criminals will be able to eat the murder weapon! We must restrict the export of this violent technology!@#

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      hey, pull my finger. Ooops.

  33. dave 100

    Full circle?

    I wonder if combined with a large vat, they could make this full circle, grow most of the raw materials 'Quorn' style in a old booster, using the waste from the loo. Then just ship a minimal amount of the nutritional requirements that are missing.

  34. sisk

    Are you sure this was NASA and not DARPA?

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