Drinks of the future: 3D printed beverages and cocktails

Drinks of the future: 3D printed beverages and cocktails

By Subhra Pradhan

3D printing can be defined as the art of creating three-dimensional objects with the help of a computer, a digital file, and a printer. The material for 3D printing can be anything from metals and ceramics to polymers. The objects to be printed can be modeled with computer-aided-design (CAD) 3D scanners. Or, a digital camera and photogrammetry software can also be leveraged to design objects. Objects can even be designed de novo by designing them on the computer without a real-world reference.

The printing technology uses additive manufacturing technology, which essentially implies adding layer-upon-layer of materials  to print 3D objects from the generated 3D model data. The global market for 3D printing is anticipated to reach $44.39 billion USD by 2025, building a CAGR of 21.8% from 2019 to 2025. Currently the applications for 3D printing span from medicine and research to apparel, jewelry, firearms, the automotive industry, computers, robots, food, and much more.

3D printing and the beverage industry:

Interestingly, 3D printing has set its foot in the beverage market. It may sound unreal, but beverage printing companies like Smart Cups, Print A Drink, Bulleit Whiskey, and Ripples have come up with innovative ideas to print drinks in various ways. 3D printed beverages are even becoming  a new urban trend.

Smart Cups

Smart Cups is a US-based beverage manufacturing company started by CEO and founder Chris Kanik. They produce a new generation of drinks by printing them inside the cups. The flavors are printed as 3D polycapsules at the bottom of biodegradable cups. The addition of water activates the printed capsules, and the cups are converted into smart energy drinks with no sugar and zero calories. The cups are made up of eco-friendly bioplastic derived from plants, lowering  the carbon footprint.

The cups are produced by Fabri-Kal, and the biopolymer PLA is sourced from NatureWorks. These smart cups are also creating a disruption in the usual delivery system of beverages due to their liquid-free nature.  It is a can- and bottle-free experience of beverages. Therefore, it also impacts storage, along with the game-changing delivery system. Kanik aims to implement this proprietary technology across the pharmaceutical, water purification, and other industries. These 3D printed beverages are now being sold as six flavors, with a price tag of $11.99 USD per pack of five cups.

Print A Drink

Print A Drink is a novel Austrian startup that uses KUKA’s LBR iiwa robots to create 3D artwork inside a glass filled with a cocktail. The robots precisely inject microliters of liquid into the cocktail, producing floating artwork. It is an artistic mix of life sciences, chemistry, robotics, and molecular gastronomy. The robotic arm can replicate designs and models that cannot be achieved otherwise. Greimal developed this process at the University of Arts and Design, Linz.

Source: All3DP

The printing process utilizes standard natural ingredients, and it only takes from 60 to 90 seconds for the most complex artwork. Currently the company can be contacted for live sessions at bars or events, and the robot can serve hundreds of 3D printed drinks in the mobile bar. Greimal has a vision of creating small edible designs for cocktails suitable for events, for example, producing company logos for industrial gatherings.

Bulleit Whiskey

Bulleit, another award-winning Kentucky-based distillery, has also entered the world of 3D-printed beverages. They are participating in events where the audience can enjoy live 3D-printed drinks. In April 2019, they presented at the Tribeca Film Festival with an entire set created by 3D printing specialist MachineHistories and designed by FAR frohn&rojas. They served a cocktail named the Bulleit Beta Test Cocktail that was created by bartender Melissa Markert and printed by robotics technology from Print A Drink.

Ripples

Ripples is a company that specializes in 3D printing on beverage foams in 10 seconds. Their printer consists of a small countertop device that comes with an extensive catalogue of premade designs, with the possibility of fully customizable designs. CEO Yossi Meshulam says the Ripple Maker has already been installed in hundreds of hotels, stores, and lounges, and its creative aspects provide better customer engagement. The Ripple Maker can also be used in making creative content for marketing and advertising for broader social outreach. It is very easy to use and requires no special training.

The printer is priced at $1,500 USD, and it is also available for flexible subscription to commercial establishments. Hence, we can look for innovative coffee art with customized messages, images, and doodles using a Ripple Maker. 

 The future of 3D printed beverages — Advantages and implications:

The current status of 3D-printed drinks very well indicates that we are not only in the next generation of liquid gastronomy, but that it might also present advantages such as reducing the carbon footprint of shipping and distribution, like in the case of Smart Cups. 3D-printed beverages also augment our sense of aesthetics and our unique experiences. Therefore, a disruption can be expected in how we perceive our drinks in future.

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