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Tech makes food-grade 3D printing a reality

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By Jenni Spinner+

17-Dec-2013

Luminar Products' 3D Super Extruder print head is capable of 3D printing with food-grade materials.
Luminar Products' 3D Super Extruder print head is capable of 3D printing with food-grade materials.

A startup has created a 3D printing head that produces food processing parts, packaging, and prototypes with material previously not possible.

Luminar Products is launching the 3D Super Extruder, a device that reportedly goes beyond the limitations of previously available extruder heads.

Because the part can work with more materials, it opens up the possibilities for food firms and packaging partners to test and produce packs, and to print replacement parts for food processing equipment.

Food-industry potential

Ron Steele, one of the three Luminar Products founders, told FoodProductionDaily that 3D printing holds enormous potential for food processors, packaging companies and other manufacturing-related businesses.

A 3D printer prints objects, not just pictures but actual things you can hold in your hand,” he explained. “These objects can be replacement parts for equipment, prototypes for new ideas or even kick-knacks and toys.”

However, the material restrictions of the technology previously restricted the number of possibilities for food industry professionals.

Extruders that are available today generally work with two types of plastic, PLA and ABS,” he said. “These plastics work well for printing but limit the applications the printed parts can be used in.”

Broader materials range

The 3D Super Extruder works with a broader range of types and grades of plastic, so companies can produce a broader range of items produced with their 3D printer. This includes food-grade plastics and other materials suitable for use in food processing environments.

Steele told FPD that the ability to quickly print replacement food-grade machine parts—rather than having to wait for the part to ship—can help save processors costly downtime.

Parts could be pulled from a library of replacement parts and printed by a maintenance technician as needed,” he said. “You’d be saving money by not requiring part ordering and expedited shipping or the need to have a machine shop quickly fabricate a part.”

The print head can use different plastic filaments, ranging in diameter from 1.75mm to 4.75mm. The capability enables users to draw from a much larger pool of printing plastics, with the appropriate type, color, strength and durability for the product being constructed.

Conserved costs

Another factor that might appeal to food firms: materials costs. Other 3D print head technology limits use to plastic that costs up to $40 per pound; the 3D Super Extruder can print high-end plastics, as well as polypropylene and other plastics costing as little as $4 per pound.

Luminar Products, based in Idaho, is hoping to gain funding support for the 3D Super Extruder through the crowdsource finance website Kickstarter.

Our goal is to gather enough Kickstarter generated orders of our extruders to allow us to produce our extruders in sufficient numbers to help bring costs down,” Steele said. “At that point, we will target 3D printer OEMs as well as individuals with a desire to improve their 3D printer's capabilities.”

1 comment (Comments are now closed)

Test for food grade

Food safety is an integral part of the production of all foods and the shared responsibility of all segments of the supply chain. In recent times there has been increased awareness for the need to evaluate the food safety practices in the production of agricultural products.

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Posted by Rahul Gupta
30 December 2013 | 10h54

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