Who doesn't love pizza? With 93% of Americans admitting to eating pizza, pizza in itself as become its own food group. If we're craving the Italian classic at home, our options are twofold: we either order in or make it ourselves. With the help of, NASA, an Austin, Texas-based company named BeeHex has introduced a third option: Print it.
BeeHex and its CEO, Anjan Contractor, printed the first foods for NASA's astronauts for deep-space missions such as Mars. Now, BeeHex is focusing its resources on creating 3D pizza printers, which could revolutionise the food industry. Contractor's idea roped in a top industry marketer and engineer Jordan French and a 16-year veteran of Intel, Chintan Kanuga. The young company also already caught the attention of the producers of ABC's Shark Tank, with Jordan French, Contractor and former Major League Baseball draftee Ben Feltner asked on to pitch the company's hardware to Mark Cuban, Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran.
Whilst many would veer on the side of caution with regards to 3D printed food, it's worth bearing in mind that people were reluctant to use ovens upon their conception. 3D food printing of course would take some getting used to, but the results could be potentially as sustainable as more traditional food preparation techniques. BeeHex claims that their clean robots can make a pizza in 4 minutes, whilst a human would take 9 minutes, making their method much faster and to a certain extent more hygienic. A recent exhibition of the company's hardware at Internet of Things World in Santa Clara, California showed positive feedback in taste tests that used a vodka-sauce-based pizza recipe from Jordan French's family.
Consider pizzas at public places, such as theme parks. Quality is always sacrificed for volume when it comes to theme parks. Often the pizzas are overpriced and poorly made, with at times, questionable hygiene levels. Installing 3D printers to create pizzas would resolve this as a high volume of high quality pizzas could be created efficiently. 395,000,000 people visited theme parks last year according to BeeHex, so the market would certainly benefit from their creation.
It goes without saying that hygiene is of utmost importance to our food preparation. There have been horror stories of fast food joints practicing hazardously dangerous food practices, putting its consumers at risk. Perhaps the lower the food quality, the less focus there is on food hygiene. With robots making food, hygiene standards will always be diligently met, even at bulk preparation.
The pizzas created by BeeHex's robots are indistinguishable from traditional pizzas. They are visually appealing and with the right recipes, delicious. These 3D printers also have the capacity to create alternative shaped pizzas. Not that there was anything wrong with regular circular pizzas, but triangular, square, even octagon shaped pizzas are now possible with these printers. Beehex's website even showcases a USA-shaped pizza and heart-shaped pizzas, the latter of which sell nearly one million a year from major pizza chains to couples on Valentine's Day.
BeeHex is led by Anjan Contractor, who is the engineer who invented NASA's first 3D food-printer robot designed for a manned mission to Mars. This means that the technology behind the robots is far ahead of its time. As a result, the potential housed in these robots remains unparalleled.
Indeed, 3D pizzas may only be the start. As the concept catches on, 3D food printing could evolve to accommodate other kinds of foods, opening itself up to an even wider market.
At this moment in time, BeeHex is raising funding for their project. Prototypes have been developed and video reactions to consumers trying their pizzas can be found on their website. As a result, the robots have not yet been rolled out to the public, but with enough funding, BeeHex hopes to take a revolutionary step in the food industry.