Scientists 3D Printed Cheese

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These days, you can 3D print anything from a house to your breakfast. And as 3D-printed pizza becomes a thing, food scientists are examining what exactly happens when you print yourself some cheese.

A recent study in the Journal of Food Engineering explores how 3D printing affects the structure of processed cheese. How gross would 3D-printed Velveeta nachos be? A bevy of researchers from University College Cork in Ireland decided to find out.

They melted a commercially available processed cheese (think American cheese, not cheddar) and put it through a modified 3D printer that printed the cheese out at either a fast or a slow speed. The cheese was printed out into cylinders that were then cooled for 30 minutes and put in the refrigerator for a day. After that 24-hour refrigeration period, the researchers took the cheese out of the fridge to check its texture and chemical structure.

They found that both the slow-printing and the fast-printing processes made the refrigerated cheese softer and darker in color compared to both untreated cheese and melted cheese. The printed cheeses were much easier to re-melt, likely because the network of proteins inside of them had been weakened. They were less sticky, probably because the oils inside them rose to the surface of the cheese during the printing process.

You can see the chemical structure of the cheese change in the image below. The red blobs are fats; the green shapes are proteins.

Clockwise from left: untreated cheese, melted cheese, high-speed printed cheese, low-speed printed cheese. Image Credit: Le Tohic et. al, Journal of Food Engineering (2017)

The printing speed didn’t affect the cheese very much, but it did change the color slightly. The slower printing process resulted in a more yellow shade than untreated cheese, while the faster process resulted in a cheese color that was a little more blue.

In short, 3D printing will significantly alter your cheese. Using what’s essentially a Cheez Whiz robot wouldn’t necessarily make your cheese worse, though. The researchers didn’t taste test their printed material, so we can’t know which cheese was the most delicious. But more melty cheese could be pretty useful for that 3D-printed pizza.

Please enjoy this video of the 3D printer making a bear out of whipped mascarpone.

[h/t Francie Diep]