How 3D printed food will put playfulness on the menu

PUBLISHED: 10:40 08 June 2017 | UPDATED: 23:01 11 June 2017

Vaiva Kalnikaite at Dovetailed, Nufood, 19e Hills Road, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell

Vaiva Kalnikaite at Dovetailed, Nufood, 19e Hills Road, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

The NuFood app and Robot printer will be one of the sexiest kitchen appliances on the market when it goes on sale later this year

Blenders and smoothie makers are now an intrinsic part of most kitchens, but the kitchen appliance sector is set to go up a gear when NuFood launches its app and Robot 3D food printer later this summer.

NuFood is the name for the consumer arm of Cambridge-based Dovetailed, which unveiled its first 3D printer three years ago and has gone on to develop a consultancy-based 3D printing service for corporates.

With Dovetailed up and running, founder Vaiva Kalnikaite came up with the NuFood concept for the retail market a couple of years ago and has since finessed the product into three components.

The first is a free app on iOS and Android which “designs the shapes-and-flavour combinations”.

Next up is the Robot printer. “It’s very simple,” explains Vaiva. “When you’ve completed your design on the app you just press ‘play’ and your design is sent to the Robot, which is ours, designed from scratch and will go on sale at kitchen appliance prices.” That’d be an upmarket gadget price tag, probably around the £500 or £600 mark. “Some of the parts are built in Cambridge, some come from China.”

Thirdly there’s “venture flavours”, which allow users to memorise their previous designs and subscribe to new ranges as they emerge from the NuFood studio. These new food experiences will be sold in much the same way as you buy a coffee pod for your espresso machine either online or from your local shop.

NuFood isn’t attempting to replace meals, but accessorise them - at least to start with. “Our approach is to introduce playfulness back into the kitchen,” says Vaiva, “adding interesting flavours to everyday meals.”

The Robot blends tastes according to your design and then delivers them in shapes that you define. “The designs involve very intense flavours which come as a liquid and are poured into the Robot, and the Robot uses them almost like an ink to construct both the flavour and the shape,” says Vaiva.

Currently there are just three flavours: strawberry, soya and wasabi, but more are on the way including lychee, vanilla and coffee. “It’s very customised and lots of unusual flavours are possible.”

The development of printed food is still at an early stage, but the NuFood experience may well change that. Vaiva and her team of eight, who are based on Hills Road, are ultimately bidding to revolutionise the dining experience by personalising the menu in ways that will titillate even the most jaded palette. You can find out more at the UNITE: Digital Disruption event at the Hauser Forum on June 19, where Vaiva will be giving one of the keynote speeches. “I’ll be talking about the Dovetailed and NuFood journey,” she says of her conference talk, “my inspirations, and where the market is going. One of the themes I’ll be exploring is why 3D printing is struggling to make make it into people’s homes.”

And why is that?

“The level of skill expected to model something is very complex, which is why we’ve made our software really easy to use for everyone from children to grandparents. Also a lot of these tools are very powerful but there’s not a lot of inspiration of what to make with it, which is why we’ve opted for the playfulness approach.”

- The UNITE: Digital Disruption conference takes place from 10am to 1.30pm on June 19 at the Hauser Forum. Hosted by Method in conjunction with the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) the event will showcase new and pioneering ideas which challenge the status quo using digital innovation to revolutionise industries. As well as Vaiva there will be speakers from Bango, Cycle.land’s founder Agne Milukaite, Google Digital Garage and ARU REACTOR. Organisations showcased at the Forum include Barclay’s Eagle Lab, Collusion and Land as well as Dovetailed/NuFood.

Each company will assess the milestones on their journey to success, and consider how rapid changes in the digital sector are enabling companies to disrupt their respective industries.

Key partners supporting the event include the LEP’s business signposting service Signpost 2 Grow, Intellectual Property experts Marks & Clerk and the Cambridge Independent.

To find out more visit methodcreative.co.uk/unite or email jess@methodcreative.co.uk.

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