News & Opinion | June 9, 2018 5:00 am

Future of Potato Chips May Involve 3-D Printing

MIT professor has the skinny on the potential snack applications of the new technology.

A photo illustration of crisps on February 16, 2018 in London, England. A recent study by a team at the Sorbonne in Paris
 has suggested that 'Ultra Processed' foods including things like mass-produced bread, ready meals, instant noodles, fizzy drinks, sweets and crisps are tied to the rise in cancer.  (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A photo illustration of crisps on February 16, 2018 in London, England. A recent study by a team at the Sorbonne in Paris has suggested that 'Ultra Processed' foods including things like mass-produced bread, ready meals, instant noodles, fizzy drinks, sweets and crisps are tied to the rise in cancer. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Here’s food for thought: Eventually, potato chips may be made in much the same way as microchips.

As 3-D printing—or additive manufacturing, as the technology is more scientifically known—gets faster and cheaper, its applications are going beyond plastics and into more interesting directions. For example, edible pastes that can be printed into different shapes, like the classic potato chip.

That application was discussed this week at the MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Next conference, in a talk by MIT Associate Professor John Hart.

“Frito-Lay uses the lowest-cost printers to print prototype potato chip geometries,” Hart said during his talk, according to the magazine. “They claim that getting these plastic potato chips in their customers’ hands gives them more confidence in scaling up their production tooling.”

The big setback currently is the slow production rate at which the materials are printed, but Hart is predicting fully automated 3-D-printing facilities will be the standard within the next five years.