Where no printer has gone before
BeeHex’s origins may bring to mind the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Anjan Contractor, now c.e.o. of BeeHex, in 2013 was working for Systems and Materials Research Consultancy (SMRC) in Austin, Texas. He invented a 3-D food printer system for NASA for deep space missions. Previously, astronauts would mix powder with water to create food items, but such food did not have the same visual impact as normal-shaped food, Mr. Feltner said. Thanks to a 3-D food printer, the astronauts could receive a psychological lift upon seeing normal-shaped food, including pizza.
Mr. Contractor further developed his 3-D food printer system to accommodate a variety of food consistencies and developed a no-drip extrusion platform for chocolate and pizza printing. BeeHex was formed in 2016 and moved to Columbus in 2017. Mr. Contractor choose the name BeeHex because of how bees create hexagonal-shaped compartments in honeycombs. Bees are nature’s 3-D printers, Mr. Feltner said.
BeeHex recently partnered with the U.S. Army on a personalized nutrition project.
“Each soldier would have their own profile,” Mr. Feltner said. “You would need to know whether they had any allergies, their dietary preferences, their goals, whether they need to lose weight. All these things would be preloaded.”
Ingredients may be plugged into a 3-D printing machine. Items, like a peanut butter bar or pancakes, could be printed out. The machine, being aware of the dietary preferences and restrictions of the soldier, would know the right ingredients to include in the item.
3-D printing has become more than just pure imagination, but years of research and development are needed for the technology to reach its full potential in the food industry.
“It will be some time before we see widespread 3-D pizza printing,” Mr. Feltner said. “I think it will be more behind the scenes for a while.”
Mr. Siethoff said of CSM Bakery Solutions, “We are on a long-term development process, just getting started. We are looking to have a commercial pilot ready in the back half of (2018).”