Star Trek's food replicator may soon become more science fact than science fiction. Back in May, 2013, NASA -- as it sets its sights on manned missions to Mars -- revealed that it was teaming up with Systems & Materials Research Consultancy (SMRC) on a 3D printer that can produce... food, and more specifically, pizza. SMRC actually won a six-month, $125,000 Small Business Innovation Research Grant from NASA to explore the feasibilty of utilizing 3D-printed food for lengthy space operations.
Austin, Texas-based SMRC, led by senior mechanical engineer and founder Anjan Contractor, went off and created a 3D food printer that utilizes long-lasting powdered ingredients, individual vessels/containers (containing powder, water, oil) and heated plates (on the printer bed) to whip up a mini-pizza in 12 minutes. Contractor notes that additional micro-nutrients can be added.
Next steps include FDA sign-off on the process. If it all pans out, it'll sure beat the freeze-dried stuff astronauts have been dining on for decades. And the implications could be even greater. Consider these words in a statement from SMRC: "By exploring and implementing technologies such as 3-D printing, this may avoid food shortage, inflation, starvation, famine, and even food wars."