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3D Printers May Soon Feed Hungry Soldiers

Step aside, MREs. There's a new ration on the battlefield.

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What do the U.S. Army and The Jetsons have in common?

It may sound like a joke, but trust us, this punchline is for real. You see, the Army is developing a way to 3D-print food for soldiers on demand, much like the Jetsons' Foodarackacycle instant food machine.

Oleksyk hopes 3D printing technology can tailor foods to the individual nutritional needs soldiers on the battlefield.

But while Jane Jetson could simply press buttons to instantly create cereal, bacon, and an egg for Elroy’s breakfast, the Army’s 3D printer will be a little more complex.

Food technologist Lauren Oleksyk, who leads a research team within the U.S. Army Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Combat Feeding Directorate, has high hopes for 3D printing technology that can tailor foods to the individual nutritional needs of each soldier on the battlefield.

"We envision to have a 3-D printer that is interfaced with the soldier. And that sensor can deliver information to the computer software," Oleksyk told NPR’s Morning Edition.

The printer would then craft the food, which soldiers could eat right away. Oleksyk is also looking into using the printer to manufacture food that can be packaged and included in more traditional rations.

Oleksyk sees further potential in the idea of a 3D printer that crafts food from ingredients soldiers have foraged or been provided with in raw form, although she admits such functionality will take time to develop. The Department of Defense just approved research funding, and the first 3D-printed Army meals should be ready by 2025.

Like current MRE (Meal Ready-to-Eat) rations, any 3D-printed Army food will have to pass a taste test. We’re not sure that the printer will be able to create bacon the way the Foodarackacycle could—Oleksyk and her team are looking into real and synthetic meat for printing—but we think the salty, greasy addition would go a long way toward passing that taste test with flying colors.

Source: All Tech Considered

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