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The US Army wants to give soldiers 3D-printed meals

The US Army could one day have its own very own version of the Star Trek replicator. Researchers at the Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center in Massachusetts are currently investigating ways that 3D printers could be used to create meals and rations for soldiers. “It could reduce costs because it could eventually be used to print food on demand,” food technologist Mary Scerra tells Army Technology Magazine. “For example, you would like a sandwich, where I would like ravioli. You would print what you want and eliminate wasted food.”

Three-dimensional printing is changing the way the Army treats injuries and builds bombs, and now the technology is poised to revolutionize how soldiers are fed. 3D printing will allow the Army to print food on demand, from pasta to pizza, and tailor its nutritional content to an individual soldier’s needs. Feeding thousands of soldiers in the wilderness of a far-flung battlefield has never been an easy task. The food served to Army personnel needs to be unspoiled, nutritious, and reasonably tasty. For decades, soldiers have dined on Army-supplied Meals, Ready to Eat, but MREs are usually pretty unappetizing and limited to 24 options like “beef taco filling” served in a tinfoil bag. You couldn’t even get a pizza until last year when Army researchers developed a groundbreaking pizza that stays fresh for three years. But 3D printing could change that. While most current methods for 3D printing food pile layers of nutritional goo on top of each other, the Army is looking to useultrasonic agglomeration, which binds particles together by shooting ultrasonic waves at them. This approach, explained Army Magazine in its July issue, affords them great flexibility when it comes to printing varied meals—adding some additional options to the menu.

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