Additive manufacturing has proven to have one great quality: the versatility to reach a variety of markets offering solutions and new applications that were previously unthinkable. The food business is no exception. Although the traditional industry is far from being the main adopter of this technology, the innovation it can bring to this sector is also important.
A good example is La Pâtisserie Numérique , a start-up founded in 2019 in Paris area headed by Marine Coré Baillais . We spoke with her about the state of 3D printing in food, the development of her machine and the place of this technology in professional kitchens.
From the industry to the kitchen
TSL – What is your background in the field of additive manufacturing?
Marine – In particular at Sculpteo, where I was in charge of providing innovative additive manufacturing solutions to industrial clients. Each customer is unique, as are their manufacturing needs. A large part of my job was therefore to listen to them and understand them. It was a job that allowed me to discover the fabric that makes up the 3D printing field in many sectors.
Where did La Pâtisserie Numérique project come from?
Although the food sector is not one of the sectors in which I have worked in depth, I detected that there was room for improvement and many opportunities. After more than seven years at Sculpteo, I decided to take my career in a new direction and combine the knowledge I had gained in the field of additive manufacturing with my other passion: pastry-making.
The first step was to take the CAP (Certificat Aptitude Professionnelle) at the École de Boulangerie et de Pâtisserie de Paris in 2018 in order to be able to work as a pastry chef and enter the world of pastry-making. Although for me the training was not aimed at directly practising the profession, it allowed me to acquire knowledge and above all to gain access to the kitchens and bakeries where there are chefs with whom I wish to develop my ideas.
Today, we are a team of 7 people combining skills in mechanics, software and biochemistry to develop innovative solutions in the food sector.
Own technology development
What are your products so far?
The first and most ‘simple’ is Cakewalk 3D , a kit that turns a desktop printer into a food printer. Compatible with most FDM printers, our kit allows you to extrude different foods and take the first steps into the field of food 3D printing. Our application is based on an auger, as the piston method is not ideal for food applications.
Later, based on our knowledge, successes and especially failures, we decided to develop our own slicer specifically for food printing. We found that the software was not adapted to the needs of our application.
Our material is not a standard material, like a plastic for example, with well-defined properties that allow us to parameterise the printing more easily. Our material is viscous, made of a mixture of several ingredients and with properties that can vary greatly because each cook will have his own recipe.
“We started with two products: a kit to adapt an FDM to food printing and the adaptation of a slicing software for specific food use. Today, we are already developing our own machine”.
Thanks to the support of the University of Technology of Troyes, we have developed this software which responds to the specificities of our application, notably the problems of shrinkage and non-printing movements .
These two cases are the basis of the most important project we are working on: our own food printing machine.
What is the status of the development of your own machine?
We are busy in various areas, as a task of this calibre requires attention to many details. Having the support of top chefs helps a lot as they are the ones who know the tastes of the diners, and also because they will be the future users of the machine.
Perhaps most remarkable is the fact that the objective is clear: to make the chef’s job easier without affecting the taste. The fact that the dish is 3D printed should not affect the taste. This is why we have designed a device that prints without the need to add additives and that is flexible and versatile in terms of recipes, without limiting the creative process intrinsic to haute cuisine.
This is a challenge because, I insist, unlike existing 3d printing machines, we propose that any professional chef can work with any creation that comes to mind, which means that the field of possible materials is enormous. For example, even if we propose a specific recipe for the machine, if two different people make it, we will inevitably have two doughs that are not 100% identical.
Other aspects are easier to define, such as food-compatible materials, hygiene compliance or dimensions, because we are relying on existing kitchen standards .
We still have a lot of work ahead of us, including the filing of several patents, and we plan to bring it to market by the end of 2022.
A field in full growth
What does the ecosystem look like in this particular area of additive manufacturing?
It’s not yet a supply-side industry, so it’s a fairly small and focused market, which translates into little competition. People are starting to talk about it and professional chefs are interested and involved in projects like ours to make room for this technology in their kitchens.
The good news is that there is a lot of projection. In this sense, I would like to highlight interesting projects such as those of the Spanish Natural Machines with its Foodini or the Dutch byFlow .
“There are already some interesting bets in a field that still has a long way to go”.
What can we expect from the future in this sector?
New approaches where we don’t limit ourselves to creations where the machine is a simple robotic arm that shapes a pastry or a food, but where we take advantage of the possibilities of additive manufacturing to offer unique experiences. Imagine being able to taste dishes with flavours, textures or consistencies that are impossible to achieve with traditional methods.
Cover image via La Pâtisserie Numérique
 Linkedin Marine
 Cakewalk 3D
 Slicer 3D
 Gastronorm. UNE EN 631-1. Materials and articles in contact with foodstuffs – Catering containers – Part 1: Dimensions of containers
 Natural Machines