FAQ

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MACHINE

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What exactly are you developing at Natural Machines?

A 3D food printer - we call it Foodini. We are using an open capsule model, meaning the consumer prepares and places fresh ingredients in Foodini. Natural Machines is making food preparation healthier, easier, and so much fun!

Who is your target audience?

We believe that in 10 to 15 years, 3D food printers will become a common kitchen appliance in both home and professional kitchens, similar to how an oven or a microwave are common appliances in kitchens today. So, we will target both professional kitchen users and home kitchen users. Currently, we are focused on professional kitchen users.

Why would anyone want to 3D print food? What recipes are suitable for 3D printing? Do you have examples?

Today, too many people eat too much convenience foods, processed foods, packaged foods, or pre-made meals - many with ingredients that are unidentifiable to the common consumer, versus homemade, healthy foods and snacks. But there is the problem of people not having enough time to make homemade foods from scratch. Enter Foodini. Foodini is a kitchen appliance that takes on the difficult parts of making food that is hard or time-consuming to make fully by hand. By 3D printing food, you automate some of the assembly or finishing steps of home cooking, thus making it easier to create freshly made meals and snacks. Take an example of ravioli. How often have you made homemade ravioli? Rolling out the dough to a thin layer, adding the filling, adding the top layer of dough, and then cutting it to size takes time. Let Foodini do it for you. Simply load the dough and filling into Foodini, and Foodini will print individual raviolis for you. The 3D printing of food – in this case, creating a layer of pasta, a layer of filling, and covering it with a layer of pasta again – is assembling the ravioli. The same as you would do by hand, except Foodini automates it: you don’t have to manually do all the work... Foodini does it for you: less mess in your kitchen; more time to do other things. Plus, have fun! Make the ravioli into different shapes and sizes. After Foodini is done, put the ravioli in boiling water to cook, or, for a modern twist, bake them in the oven. Or take an example of crunchy, savory snacks: chips, breadsticks, crackers, etc. Don't buy pre-package versions that are shelf-stable for years, with preservatives and usually too much salt, etc. With Foodini, you can make your own versions of these convenience foods people have grown accustom to, but creating healthier versions made with fresh ingredients.

What is the smallest possible layer thickness Foodini can print?

The smallest possible layer thickness is dependent on the food that is printing. The smallest nozzle size we are using at the moment is 0.5mm. With this, for example, we can print very thin crackers.

What is the cleaning process? Is it difficult to clean?

Foodini is designed so that the most of the moving parts are hidden. This not only gives the look of a clean, sleek looking kitchen appliance, but it also makes sure the food goes where we want it to in the machine... that is, in the capsules and on the print surface. If food does get on the walls of the inside of the machine, it's very easy to just wipe it down with a damp cloth or sponge. The capsules and glass plate can be put in the dishwasher or hand-washed, and the capsules are designed to come apart in certain sections for easy cleaning. For example, the nozzle comes apart from the capsule body. We don't like kitchen appliances that are hard to clean, and we're sure you don't either. So we are very determined to design Foodini to be as easy to clean as possible.

Are the capsules re-usable? What are they made of? Are they easy to clean?

Foodini ships with empty capsules that are re-usable. We are making them out of stainless steel, so the capsules will not retain food scent or flavor. The nozzle comes apart from the capsule, making it very easy to clean either in a dishwasher or by hand.

Do you use a syringe system?

No, we don't use a syringe system. Foodini ships with empty stainless steel food capsules. Each capsule has a twist-off nozzle, and nozzles are available in different sizes to accomodate the wide variety of food and food textures we can print. One of the reasons we don't use a syringe system is time to print... no one is going to wait hours for dinner! Foodini has to print faster, and our capsule and nozzle system helps us achieve faster print times. It's possible to print foods in under a minute!

What is the difference between Foodini and the other 3D food printers? What modifications or innovations does it have as a machine? What makes Foodini unique?

Foodini is the first real food 3D printer that prints a wide range of foods, both savory and sweet. It uses real food. Fresh food. From the day we started Foodini, we built it to be a food appliance. Meaning, it's made from food-grade/safe materials. Many other food printers focus on a small amount of printable ingredients... printers focused on chocolate only or sugar only, for example. With our open capsule model, you aren't limited to the number of ingredients you can print. This allows us to accommodate for a wide range of tastes. Also unique is the physical design of the product. The machine is sleek, and most of the technical moving parts are cleverly hidden from view. People will be proud to have Foodini on a kitchen counter, both from the physical design as well as the functionality. This is very different than most 3D printers on the market - those that print food and those that don't! And with room for up to 5 food capsules, consumers don’t have to manually change out the food capsules for different ingredients when printing.

How many capsules fit into Foodini at one time? How many capsules can I use to print at the same time?

Foodini has room to fit up to 5 food capsules that automatically exchange as needed. One capsule at a time is used for printing. Each capsule has it's own nozzle; Foodini does not use the same nozzle for capsules that are automatically exchanged.

Is it safe to eat printed food from Foodini?

Yes. It's important to know why we made Foodini: We saw an issue with food in the food industry, and 3D food printing was the best way to solve that problem. What we did NOT do: take a standard 3D printer, and try to do something new and "cool" with it, like print food. Our reasons for building Foodini results in a big difference in how we built Foodini versus other 3D food printers. We use food-grade safe materials and parts to build Foodini, inclusive of the stainless steel food capsules. Foodini was designed from day 1 to work with food. As such, printed food from Foodini is indeed safe to eat. This is real food... 3D printed.

What are your hopes for Foodini?

We hope that Foodini will encourage more people to eat healthier, fresher foods... whether it’s in their homes or in a restaurant. There are too many processed and convenience foods in the market, many with ingredients that are unidentifiable to the common consumer. Foodini can help replicate these convenience foods that people have become accustom to, but making them with fresh ingredients. And taking it a step further, Foodini can help craft/present food into shapes that would be difficult by hand... this makes preparing (and eating!) food fun!

Could you explain in simple steps how Foodini works?

Foodini is a connected device, meaning it's connected to the Internet. It has a built in touch screen on the front that provides the controls for operating Foodini. Once you choose the recipe to print (from the onboard touchscreen, or from a tablet, laptop, etc.), Foodini will instruct what food to put in each capsule, and then printing can begin.

Why a 3D food printer? How did Foodini come about? Why did you start Natural Machines?

The short answer: We saw an issue with food in an industry, and 3D food printing was the best way to solve that problem. This is a big difference in how we built Foodini versus other 3D food printers - from the food-grade safe materials we use to build Foodini, to the external design of Foodini, to the Foodini user experience being as easy to use as any other kitchen appliance - versus taking a traditional 3D printer and trying to do something different with it, like print food. The longer answer: read The Story of Foodini in our About Us section.

Does Foodini require a designated computer?

Foodini does not require a separate computer. You can operate Foodini via the onboard touchscreen. We do recommend a WiFi connection for access to all functionality.

Is software included with the purchase of a Foodini?

Yes, Foodini comes with Foodini Creator software. You will also get free updates to Foodini Creator, similar to how you get free updates to your phone OS.

Does the software that comes with Foodini (called Foodini Creator) sync with a computer? Can Foodini Creator be used on multiple computers?

There is no need to sync software. You can use other computers or tablets to access Foodini Creator; you must be on the same WiFi network.

What is the test cup for? Why do I need to use it with Foodini?

When Foodini grabs a capsule, it needs to check how much ingredient is in the capsule and prepare the ingredient for printing. Part of this process is pushing a very small amount of ingredient through the nozzle to make sure it's ready to print. The test cup is used to catch that test amount, and make it easy to clean.

Does Foodini cook?

Foodini does not cook, but it can heat the ingredients. It can heat the food capsules either while in the capsule bay and/or while printing, which is good for keeping chocolate at a good melting/print temperature or printing warm mashed potatoes, for example. As another example, if you were printing raw beef or raw cookie dough, after printing you would have to cook the print as you would with that type of food normally: either in an oven or some other way. We are working on a cooking version, but as of now that's not available. We're not yet announcing when the cooking version will be ready. Building a new kitchen appliance like this is complex and thus it's difficult to say when exactly it will be ready... until it's ready. When it's ready, we'll be sure to let you know. To people that are buying the current version of Foodini: We promise we will not just suddenly release cooking version without letting you know in advance. No one likes to buy a product, and then shortly thereafter the next version/ latest-and-greatest model is released. We don't like when that happens to us, so we will not do that to you.

Do I need to know how to use a 3D printer (like one that prints plastic) to use Foodini? Do I have to upload files to print?

At the end of the day, Foodini is a kitchen appliance. We've built it to be easy to use, and you do not need any experience with 3D printers (food printers, plastic printers or any other!) in order to use Foodini. As Foodini comes with our software, Foodini Creator, to help you design your own prints, you do not need to upload files. However, you can upload files like JPEGs and other image formats. And if you do know about 3D printing and want to use STL files for 3D models, you can upload those as well. (Don't know what STL files are? You don't need to in order to use Foodini!)

TIMINGS, PRICE, AVAILABILITY

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When is Foodini available for customers to buy?

Foodini is available now! Note that our main focus is professional kitchen users first, and with the introduction of the cooking version we will widen availability to consumers/ home kitchen users. We're not yet announcing when the cooking version will be ready. Building a new kitchen appliance like this is complex and thus it's difficult to say when exactly it will be ready... until it's ready. When it's ready, we'll be sure to let you know. To people that are buying the current version of Foodini: We promise we will not just suddenly release cooking version without letting you know in advance. No one likes to buy a product, and then shortly thereafter the next version/ latest-and-greatest model is released. We don't like when that happens to us, so we will not do that to you.

How much does Foodini cost?

Foodini is priced at $4,000 (USD) / €3,600. In addition to receiving a Foodini with your order, you will also receive free direct support and guidance directly from the Natural Machines team to create your own prints with your own fresh ingredients.

Where can I buy Foodini?

Foodini can be purchased here on our website.

How long will Foodini last? What is the average lifetime of the printer?

Foodini has an industry standard warranty of 1 year for professionals and 2 years for home users. However, we are building Foodini as a high quality kitchen appliance, and it has been designed to last much longer.

Is the product, Foodini, in demand?

Yes! We have interest worldwide from over 90 countries and counting.

How long does it take to print something? What is the print speed?

No one is going to wait hours for dinner, so Foodini has to be fast. Foodini does not have one print speed. Rather, speed is optimized based on the ingredient, the nozzle size and the print design. Print times depend on the ingredients, the recipe, and quantity you are printing. Some things print very fast in a matter of minutes (e.g., flatter type foods like crackers, simple plate decorations), while other things take longer times (e.g., intricate chocolate sculptures can take 2 hours to print.) Quantities also have to be taken into consideration. For example, a small, single serving of ravioli will print faster than quantity to feed a family of 4.

Can I rent Foodini?

No, we do not currently rent Foodini.

Can I try Foodini before I buy?

Yes, you can try Foodini before you buy, via our optional fast-tracking program, designed so that you can quickly understand Foodini hands-on, how it can benefit your business offering, and test ingredients/products.

In essence, we would send one of our senior staff with a Foodini to work on customized prints with your team. This includes testing recipes/ingredients as well as print designs that can be a unique offering to your customers. We find with our early clients that this hands-on approach is interactive and much faster for people to understand what 3D food printing and Foodini can do - as it's very new to most people. We wouldn't charge for this service. Rather, we simply ask that expenses are covered. Note that this doesn't require the purchase of a Foodini. If you are interested in a "try before you buy" option, this is it. We've done fast-tracking with a high number of customers very successfully.

Alternatively, you can visit us at one of our offices - in Barcelona, Spain, or New York City, US, for a free demo.

Speaking of timings, how old is Natural Machines?

We are 6 years old, established November 2012. :-)

INGREDIENTS & RECIPES

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What kinds of foods can Foodini print?

As Foodini ships with empty food capsules, the amount of ingredients that can be printed is unlimited. Note that our proposition is not to say that everything you eat should be 3D printed, just like everything you eat now doesn't come out of an oven. But think about your favorite packaged foods that you buy that if you were to make by hand would require forming, shaping, or layering. From simple pretzels or breadsticks, to ravioli. That's where 3D food printers shine.

How does it work in terms of ingredients? Does Natural Machines supply the ingredients for the printer, or does the user make them? Do I have to buy food capsules from Natural Machines?

We are using an open capsule model, meaning the consumer prepares and places ingredients in Foodini. Consumers are not forced to buy pre-packaged food capsules specifically for Foodini. As an added ease of use for consumers, we are looking into working with retailers that can prepare pre-packaged food capsules made freshly in-store as an alternative option for consumers. Imagine going to a store, picking up a 5 capsule pack of ravioli ingredients pre-made in the store using fresh ingredients, going home and popping them into Foodini to print.

I want to make my own ingredients for Foodini. How do I prepare the ingredients?

You can prepare the ingredients by hand, or with the help of a hand-held blender, a countertop blender, a food processor, or other similar device. All ingredients can be prepared by hand, but machines (food processors, etc.) could make the process faster and easier, depending on the ingredient. Note that Foodini is not a food processor and will not prepare your ingredients for you. You'll need to prepare ingredients outside of Foodini. Also know that it is not mandatory to print only with a paste consistency. With our nozzles available in several different sizes, you can print things like whole couscous, or burgers with chunks of cranberries and walnuts, etc.

Do you have plans to also sell capsules pre-filled with food?

As an added ease of use for consumers, we are looking into working with retailers that can prepare pre-packaged food capsules made freshly in-store as an alternative option for consumers. Imagine going to a store, picking up a 5 capsule pack of ravioli ingredients pre-made in the store using fresh ingredients, going home and popping them into Foodini to print. We are also working with food manufacturers to produce pre-filled food capsules, using no or very little natural preservatives. There are also benefits to making your own ingredients and filling the empty capsules that come with Foodini, of course. You can use fresh foods with no preservatives or additives, adjust flavors exactly to your tastes, and know exactly what is in your food.

What kind of materials or ingredients does it work with? What foods can you make with Foodini?

Some examples of food we have printed: pastas (ravioli, gnocchi, spaghetti, ...), burgers (veggie and meat), chicken nuggets (and chickpea nuggets as a vegetarian alternative), quiche, pizza, “designer” fish & chips, hash browns, cookies, crackers, brownies, chocolate, etc.

What texture does the food have to have in order to print? Is the texture an important aspect when preparing food to print?

To print food with Foodini, food textures do not have to be too scientific or of an exact consistency. The different nozzle sizes for the capsules allow for printing with different types of food textures. Printing with Foodini does NOT require food that is only similar in texture to a baby-food puree or a paste. Foodini prints a range of textures, including couscous (whole, not blended), burgers with chunks of walnuts and cranberries, etc. As 3D food printing is a relatively new technology, we envision that the range of food textures that can be printed will expand in the future with development.

Why are some things part printed and part completed by hand? In your pizza recipe, the dough and sauce are printed, and then the cheese, spices and toppings are done by hand. Why?

We always ask ourselves before printing something if it's easier/faster/better to print it versus doing it by hand. Sprinkling some cheese and spices on a pizza is definitely faster by hand versus printing. Hence, our part printed/part hand made pizza. One of the reasons we decided to print only the dough and sauce is because those are the two most difficult parts of making a pizza by hand. But of course, if you want to print the entire pizza using Foodini, you can... as long as the ingredients are of a Foodini-approved consistency.

Do customers cook the ingredients first and then put them in Foodini? Can you eat the food directly after printing or does it need some more preparation before eating?

It depends on the recipe you are printing. For example, if you are printing chocolate, it is edible at any stage of the process (you can safely eat the chocolate before and after printing.) Other ingredients can be printed raw. For example, a meat-based hamburger can be printed using raw ingredients, and cooked after printing.

Printable chocolate... is that real chocolate?

Printable chocolate is just normal chocolate that has been melted and re-shaped. We use different kinds of chocolates including dark, milk, white, sugar-free, etc. We use chocolates with different amounts of fat contents in order to achieve the best-printed results depending on the height and shape of the printed chocolate.

How does the food taste?

The important thing to know with Foodini is that it uses fresh, real food. The user prepares fresh food to go in the capsules to print; it's not processed food. So, it's up to the user how the food will taste: fresh food in, fresh food out. We’ve had several film crews come in and take Foodini printed food to the streets for taste testing. There were no negative reactions from people who taste our food! The only negative reactions were from people that didn't make it over the mental hump to even try 3D printed food. But once people tasted our 3D printed food, all reservations about 3D printed food disappeared after the first bite.

OVERALL CONCEPT

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How does 3D printed food differ from regular food? I don’t think I would ever eat anything 3D printed...

If you eat anything from a food manufacturer, like packaged food you buy in a supermarket, then you practically are already eating 3D printed food: a food manufacturer takes food, pushes it through machines, shapes it, forms it... we’ve taken that same concept and shrunk the large food manufacturing facility down to a stylish kitchen appliance that sits on your kitchen counter. But the big difference is with our open/empty food capsule system, we allow you to use your own fresh ingredients to print. This is real food, 3D printed.

Are you saying that everything we eat should come out of a 3D food printer?

Our proposition is not to say that everything you eat should be 3D printed, just like everything you eat now doesn't come out of an oven. Home kitchen users: Think about your favorite packaged foods that you buy, that if you were to make by hand would require forming, shaping, or layering. From simple pretzels or breadsticks, to ravioli. That's where 3D food printers shine. Professional kitchen users print with their own fresh, real, wholesome ingredients. Sometimes printing a plate decoration, sometimes printing a part of a dish that is then completed by hand, and some printing entire dishes.

How does Foodini and 3D food printing contribute to lessening food waste?

3D food printing with Foodini can reduce food waste throughout the food value chain: from the customization of portion sizes allowing people to print what they want to eat and nothing more, to recovering food that is traditionally classified as food waste - such as “ugly” fruits, vegetables, and cuts of meat - and printing these foods making them an attractive and nutritious food source.

Are you going to eliminate the need for people to have basic cooking skills? I don't like that...

Quite the opposite, as we print using fresh, real food. Printing with Foodini does encourage people to acquire and keep using cooking skills. We encourage people to buy less processed, packaged, pre-made foods, and get back in the kitchen and make foods from scratch. People can prepare their own ingredients to print. You'll gain a lot more cooking skills making your own food to print, versus ripping open a package of something already made. As an example, if you want to make spinach quiche in the shape of dinosaurs, you can prepare your dough and spinach filling before printing. This is encouraging people to cook!

By printing food, are you trying to replace traditional ingredient preparation and cooking methods?

At the end of the day, Foodini is a kitchen appliance to help people make fresh foods. We are certainly not proposing that every food you eat needs to be 3D printed, just like every food you eat now doesn't come out of an oven. A stew? You don't need a 3D printer for that. But think about foods that if you were to make by hand would require food shaping, or forming, or repetitive food assembly tasks, or layering... that's where Foodini can help. From shaping pretzels, to forming gnocchi, to layering ravioli, to forming crackers.... it's designed to help get people back into kitchens, cooking with fresh foods, and getting away from buying processed, packaged, pre-made foods. We are not designing a pill-replaces-real-food proposition.

When making many foods, the creation of those foods is almost an art form in itself. Is there a risk that the use of Foodini could be a barrier to a chef’s artistry?

No, if anything Foodini is another tool for a chef to create something artistic.

Are you saying that 3D printed food is the fastest way to get food?

No. The fastest way to get food is to open a box of something frozen and throw it in the microwave. Or get a meal at a fast-food restaurant. But think about your favorite foods that if you were to make by hand would require shaping, or forming, or layering, or have repetitive food tasks, such as forming pretzels, or making crackers. That's where Foodini can definitely speed up the process of making food with fresh ingredients.

I believe homemade foods are made with love... If I use a 3D food printer in my kitchen, where is the love?

Some people believe that the most important ingredient in food is love. Whether or not you agree with that statement is another topic, but let’s assume here you do agree. Then, you may believe that when someone takes the time to prepare food – whether it’s you or someone else – the food is also made with love and the resulting food just simply tastes… better. But what about when a 3D food printer is used to prepare food? Is the love automatically removed? Where is the love? We ask you to consider this: if you or anyone else cooking food (with added love!) uses any other kitchen appliance – whether it’s a stove, an oven, a food processor to make doughs, a blender to make sauces, etc. – is that food made with any less love? Would the food not taste as good? Is the love gone? Of course not. That person is simply using kitchen appliances to prepare food. A 3D food printer (at least the way we are making 3D food printers) is a kitchen appliance. So that love going into food is still very much there.

In our household and many others we use fresh ingredients without packaging, why is Foodini useful?

It's great your household doesn't use processed, packaged, pre-made food. Unfortunately, not every household is the same. One only has to look at supermarkets and the large amount of packaged food available on offer. Foodini can help people make those foods themselves, using fresh ingredients. Foodini is useful for saving time by shaping and assembling food for you, plus you can print it in a lot of fun shapes. Foodini even prints shapes that aren't possible to do by hand!

Is it really that hard to make pizza by hand? Why use Foodini?

We printed a pizza because too many people asked us to.... NASA was in the press at the time talking about printing pizzas in space. So here on planet Earth we printed a pizza as well. Pizza is just one of the many things Foodini prints. Some people really enjoy making pizza by hand, and we're not here telling you to do otherwise. But if making fresh pizza was so easy, why would there be entire sections in supermarkets dedicated to pre-made, processed, packaged pizzas, pizza doughs and pizza bases? We would rather have people make their own fresh dough and print it, if they choose not to do it by hand. This also keeps your counter space clean, as you don't have to flour your worksurface to shape your dough. As for printing the sauce, well, that was super quick and we got a perfectly even layer of sauce on our pizza. :-) But you'll note on our printed pizza that it was part printed and part completed by hand. We always ask ourselves before printing something if it's easier/faster/better to print it versus doing it by hand. Sprinkling some cheese and spices on a pizza is definitely faster by hand versus printing. Hence, our part printed/part hand made pizza. One of the reasons we decided to print only the dough and sauce is because those are the two most difficult parts of making a pizza by hand. But of course, if you want to print the entire pizza using Foodini, you can... as long as the ingredients are of a Foodini-approved consistency.

Exactly how does 3D printing benefit the way we prepare food? As an example, I would like to know the details behind preparing gnocchi for a 3D printer. I'm under the impression that there would not be significant time savings for this method over making your own dough.

There actually is significant time savings for 3D food printing versus doing it by hand. Foodini does not take as long as 3D printers that use plastic filament, for example... those prints could take hours. But no one is going to wait hours for dinner. 3D food printing isn't ideal for every food. We are not suggesting that everything you eat should be 3D printed, just like everything you eat now doesn't come out of an oven. Is it useful for printing a stew? No, that's a one pot meal... you don't need a 3D food printer for that. But it is useful for foods that require shaping, or repetitive tasks, such as forming pretzels, or making gnocchi. The dough itself is in an extrudable format. It's the same dough you would use if you were making gnocchi by hand. Here's where 3D food printers come in handy... when shaping the gnocchi. We've made homemade gnocchi by hand before and it's a bit of a mess: flouring your work surface, shaping individual gnocchi. Sure it might be fun making the first few gnocchi, but then it gets repetitive and not so fun anymore. So 3D food printing can take over the shaping and the food forming, without making a flour mess on the work surface. We can go and do other things = time saving. Now maybe you are great at making gnocchi. This particular example isn't for everyone. But for those of us who aren't gnocchi making experts, it definitely saves time.

THE FUTURE

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Where do you see Natural Machines in 10 years?

We believe that in 10 to 15 years, 3D food printers will become a common kitchen appliance in both home and professional kitchens, similar to how an oven or a microwave are common appliances in kitchens today. In the future, you’ll see a range of 3D food printers from Natural Machines to meet all types of budgets and functionality requirements.

What is the future of Food 3D Printing?

It’s going to keep getting better and better. We envision that 3D printing technology will continually evolve, so we will always be investing in research and development. With food printing, for example, we believe additional textures of food will be suitable for printing, finer-tuned movements to shape food on a plate will be developed, and printing can become faster without losing quality of presentation. Since Foodini is a connected device – meaning it’s connected to the Internet – we will provide software updates so our customers have the latest technology on their machines.

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