Today, additive manufacturing is not only used for the creation of prototypes using thermoplastics. Advances in the development of new materials have allowed this technology to be implemented in a wide variety of industries. This is also the case in the gastronomy sector. More and more companies are looking for solutions to 3D print food in a simpler way 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 use with food. To learn more about the company and its implementation of these cutting-edge technologies, we caught up 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 designing 3D printers for 20 years. People have known about 3D printers for 6 or 7 years, but we’ve been in this business a lot longer. We are therefore people present in the genesis of 3D printing since its inception. For my part, I am Patxi Larumbe, Strategic Director of the company and one of the founding partners, along with Daniel Rico. Regarding engineering, I am an expert in CAD CAM CAR systems, robotics, industrial laser cutting systems.
I built the laboratory at Cizur Menor to devote myself to researching laser applications in industry, education and gastronomy as I am expert in almost all processes applicable in the use of lasers. This includes CO2, fiber, ruby, diodes and UV diodes, calculation of optics for process optimization, beam and optic alignments, use of DSP boards, robotics, stepper motors. pas, servomotors, pilots, Cartesian axes, delta and systems with galvos. In addition, I have knowledge in the field of show laser lighting. Such as programming systems with ILDA standard, programming arduinos and marlin and GBRL firmware, stereolithography systems.
3DN: How did the idea to create Cocuus come about?
When the 3D printing patent expired, after 20 years, we decided that we weren’t going to make 3D printers that print plastic like everyone else does. So we decided to focus on 3D food printing. That’s because we thought at the time, and rightly so, that this would be an area with less competition. Food 3D printing is something that is done by very few companies in the world.
And like in the best companies, it all starts with a few âmakerâ meetings, at tables crowded with boards of arduino and cans of beer. It was the seed of a friendship and an alliance that would eventually cause us to quit our jobs and bet on entrepreneurship, something very difficult to do, but it is that same initiative and the same belief. in what we do that got us here, even though we still have a long way to go.
The first laser machine we assembled was used to cook our friends’ dinner, creating different dishes that surprised both with their novelty and the potential that such technology would have in the catering market. And from there was born the interest to provide chefs with new working tools, both for cutting the basic product, for molds or for changing textures or 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 instead of additive printing, which is completely different from what we have in the world. What we do is we use laser machines that are a little bigger than the size of an oven, and we put the food in there and shape it into cuts. Leftovers are salvageable and we 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 options it presents for branding or engraving on food. And as we do these projects, we love what we do more and more. I remember a project with kids at school when the dining room staff said, âThe kids don’t even look at the fruit. We carved apple turtles with our machines and at the end of the event there was only one left.
Then we decided that we were missing color in our products and applied it through edible inkjet printing. To be clear: we use a paper printer with edible inks, but instead of printing on paper, we paint on a donut, on a cake, or on the coffee or beer foam.
And with the pandemic, we had to put this type of product aside for a bit because there was no event of any kind and the hospitality industry suffered a lot during that time so it was going to be difficult to offer one of these services. We therefore focused on the development of geriatric and hospital 3D printing, to produce food that is a replica that is easier to consume but whose appearance looks a lot like real food dishes, for people unable to chew and having swallowing or dysphagia problems.
Finally, we are now fully engaged in bioprinting, which consists of printing mimetic products of appearance and texture as close as possible to meat and fish products, but using as raw material either vegetable protein products or cells. cultivated in bioreactors.
3DN: What are the main advantages of this mode of production? What are the limits ?
The main advantage that we offer to the market is that every time we evaluate a project, it must have industrial projection and scaling. We are not tackling anything that cannot be done very quickly and industrially. Unlike our competitors, we make machines that produce products very quickly. And we are also developing machines that can be fed with different ingredients so that with slight modifications they can be used to produce cell-based products as well as herbal products.
In terms of limitations, there will certainly be certain types of food that will not be reproducible, but the biggest limitation or obstacle may come from not being able to properly transmit the benefits globally:
- The mode of production will have to change to support the population because there will not be enough protein;
- This method has a lower CO2 emission, and therefore a lower impact on the climate;
- There will be no mistreatment or animal death;
- It will be possible to develop foods with an even better nutritional level.
3DN: Where do you see 3D food printing in the coming years?
We need to assess what 3D printing is. If we talk about 3D printing as taking dough and turning it into an object, then most of the future of 3D printing is in the hands of global production. What we believe is that there are definitely going to be factories where the chops come out and the cows don’t come in. You can find more information on our website HERE.
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