Barilla, which is the world's biggest exporter of pasta, has been working with the Netherlands-based TNO, a scientific research organisation, for the past two years to come up with a way of blending fine dining with 3D printing, La Repubblica reported.
The aim is to create a pasta printer that would let diners and restaurant owners design their own pasta, with custom-made designs taking no longer to make than a classic pasta shape.
Kjeld van Bommel, a designer for TNO, told La Repubblica he was hopeful for the project, though it still needs some refinement. “We are working on improving the speed of the printer,” he said, adding that it was already ten times faster than the first models two years ago.
He pointed out that the printers allow the ordinary consumer to put their own stamp on a restaurant meal.
“For example, you could surprise your wife with pasta in the shape of a rose for your marriage anniversary. You simply save your design in a USB and bring it to the restaurant. The 3D food printer there will print it on site.”
Experimental prototypes of the machine are currently being trialed in several Dutch restaurants, but it is not the printers themselves that Barilla is hoping to make money from. On the contrary, the company plans to manufacture and sell the dough mixtures to be used in the printers. These mixtures would be put into a cartridge, in the same way ink is fed into an ordinary printer.
Although high-end printers designed to make food do already exist, Barilla is the first large food brand to have shown a commitment to working with the printers.
3D printers are expected to revolutionize production techniques in a variety of industries, replacing traditional factory production lines with a single machine which can build almost anything, making different objects out of different materials.
After making headlines in 2013 with a statement that gay couples would never be featured in his adverts, company boss Guido Barilla seems keen to draw a line under the controversy, with several new strategies for 2014. As well as 'printed pasta', the company is aiming to target the Russian market and expand their range of gluten-free products.