Today additive manufacturing is not only used for the production of prototypes from thermoplastics. Advances in the development of new materials have made it possible to use this technology in a variety of areas. This is also the case in gastronomy. More and more companies are looking for solutions to 3D print food more easily or without the use of animals. One of these companies is the Spanish company Cocuus, which has developed its own additive and subtractive manufacturing solutions for food. To find out more about the company and the implementation of these cutting-edge technologies, we met with one of the founding partners, Patxi Larumbe.
3dn: can you briefly introduce yourself and your relationship with 3d printing?
We are a company that has been developing 3D printers for 20 years. People have known 3D printers for 6 or 7 years, but we’ve been in this field for a lot longer. So we are people who have been involved in the creation of 3D printing since its inception. Personally, I’m Patxi Larumbe, Strategic Director of the company and one of the founding partners, along with Daniel Rico. As far as engineering is concerned, I am an expert in CAD CAM CAR systems, robotics, industrial laser cutting systems.
I built the laboratory in Cizur Menor to devote myself to researching laser applications in industry, education and hospitality, as I am an expert in almost all processes that can be used in the use of lasers. These include CO2, fiber, ruby, diode and UV diodes, optical calculations for process optimization, beam and optical alignment, use of DSP cards, robotics, stepper motors, servo motors, drivers, Cartesian axes, delta and systems with galvos . I also have knowledge of show laser lighting. Such as programming systems with ILDA standard, programming Arduinos and firmware Marlin and GBRL, stereolithography systems.
3dn: how did the idea of creating Cocuus come about?
When the patent for 3D printing expired after 20 years, we decided we weren’t going to develop 3D printers that print plastic like everyone else is doing. So we decided to focus on food 3D printing. That’s because we rightly believed at the time that it would become a field with less competition. 3D printing of food is done by very few companies in the world.
And as with the best companies, it all starts with a few get-togethers with “doers” at tables full of Arduino boards and beer cans. That was the seeds of a friendship and an alliance that would eventually lead us to quit our jobs and go for entrepreneurship, which is very difficult, but it’s the same initiative and belief in what we’re doing that makes us even Made us come here when we still have a long way to go.
The first laser machine we assembled was used to prepare dinner for our friends and create various dishes that surprised both by their novelty and by the potential of such technology in the restaurant market. This gave rise to an interest in making new tools available to the chefs, both for cutting the basic product and for shapes or for changing textures or for making engravings and drawings on food.
3dn: can you explain Cocuus’ 3d food printing technology?
We use this 3D technology in several areas and with different approaches. The first is the use of disruptive 3D technology based on subtractive printing rather than additive printing, which is completely different from what we have around the world. We use laser machines, which are slightly larger than an oven, and we put the food in and shape it using cutouts. The leftovers are usable and we have also found out how different foods react to such an intense beam.
Additionally, we find that caterers, chefs, caterers and event companies are very drawn to the food marking or engraving options. And as we do these projects, we like what we do more and more. I remember a project with some children at school when the staff in the canteen said, “Children don’t even look at the fruit.” We carved a few apple turtles with our machines and at the end of the event there weren’t any left.
Then we decided that we lacked color in our products and we applied it thanks to food inkjet printing. To be clear, we use a paper printer with food inks, but instead of printing on paper, it paints on a donut, on a cake, or on the foam of coffee or beer.
And with the pandemic we had to put these types of products aside a bit as there were no events of any kind and the hospitality industry has suffered a lot all along so it would be difficult to offer any of these services. So we turned to the development of 3D printing for geriatrics and hospitals to produce food that is a simpler replica of the consumer, but with an outward appearance very similar to real food dishes, for people who cannot chew and who have difficulty swallowing or swallowing to have.
Finally, we are now fully engaged in bioprinting, which consists of printing mimetic products with an appearance and texture that are as similar to meat and fish products as possible, but using either vegetable protein products or cells grown in bioreactors as the raw material .
3dn: what are the main advantages of this production method? What are the limitations?
The main advantage we offer the market is that every time we evaluate a project it requires industrial projection and scaling. We do not tackle anything that cannot be done very quickly and industrially. In contrast to our competitors, we make machines that produce products very quickly. And we are also developing machines that can be fed with different ingredients in order to be able to produce both cell-based and plant-based products with slight modifications.
In terms of limitations, there will certainly be some types of foods that are not reproducible, but the biggest limitation or obstacle may be that the benefits cannot be properly transferred at the planetary level:
- Production will have to change to feed the population as there will not be enough protein;
- This method has lower CO2 emissions and therefore less impact on the climate;
- There will be no abuse or animal death;
- It will be possible to develop foods with even better nutritional value.
3dn: where do you see 3D food printing in the next few years?
We need to evaluate what 3D printing is. If we talk about 3D printing by taking dough and turning it into an object, then most of the future of 3D printing is in the hands of global manufacturing. We believe there will definitely be factories that have chops out and cows not in. You can find more information on our website HERE.
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