Generative design X gastronomy: Your next drink at the bar may be 3D printed

Austrian company Print a Drink by Benjamin Greimel uses 3D printing robotic arm to suspend micro droplets in cocktails, creating visually alluring three dimensional geometries.

by Anmol Ahuja Published on : Dec 08, 2020

The practice of mixology and bartending, especially in the current decade, has turned to be an increasingly visual one. While the classic ones have their places, nearly all modern venues serve a delectable twist on favourites, and more often than not, that twist is intended to capture the eye of the patron at the next table, more than catching the buds of the person ordering it. The reigning fleet of pictures on social media has accentuated this culture of visual enticement, and has also proven to be an effective marketing tool. The next innovation in this arena is then by all means bound to be not just simply eye catching, but one that you will order just for the intrigue, especially given that it may be coming from a robotic 3D printer. The pictures may just crush your social media competition, thanks to Print a Drink’s 3D printed cocktails that are a unique fusion of generative design and molecular gastronomy.

  • Print a Drink merges technologies from 3D printing, mixology, and gastronomy | Print a Drink | Benjamin Greimel | STIRworld
    Print a Drink merges technologies from 3D printing, mixology, and gastronomy Image: Philipp Moosbrugger, Courtesy of Print a Drink
  • A needle like nozzle attached to a robotic arm injects and suspend droplets of dense liquid inside cocktails | Print a Drink | Benjamin Greimel | STIRworld
    A needle like nozzle attached to a robotic arm injects and suspend droplets of dense liquid inside cocktails Image: Philipp Moosbrugger, Courtesy of Print a Drink

Touted to be a first in the world of beverages and liquid foods, Print a Drink from Austria pioneers existing technology using some innovative tweaks with a view to transform one of the most popular activities, and in turn consumables in the entertainment and leisure industry. The patented technology uses pre-programmed software and a robotic 3D printing arm to augment and suspend the drops of dense, edible liquid inside a cocktail, creating interesting and complex 3D geometry, giving existing cocktails a new, high end twist that’s also immensely marketable. The arm uses a thin, needle-like nozzle to inject microliter droplets within the beverage at precise points, while a special technique makes it possible for the droplets to be kept in suspension. Print a Drink can “build” a completely new cocktail in under a minute, enabling quick, off-the-table sales.

  • The Print a Drink has been a huge eye catcher and visual attraction at exclusive events | Print a Drink | Benjamin Greimel | STIRworld
    The Print a Drink has been a huge eye catcher and visual attraction at exclusive events Image: Courtesy of Print a Drink
  • The robotic arm is able to 3D print for a drink in nearly 20-90 seconds | Print a Drink | Benjamin Greimel | STIRworld
    The robotic arm is able to 3D print for a drink in nearly 20-90 seconds Image: Courtesy of Print a Drink

The process explores and combines technologies from robotics, additive manufacturing, and molecular cuisine to explore a completely new market segment: 3D printing for drinkable food. In a bid for high marketability, despite involving a slightly expert driven process, the medium remains entirely flexible and can be extended to conventional fruit juices, syrups, water and alcohol: nearly any beverage medium as long as the suspended drops are more viscous than the liquid itself, and a certain degree of transparency is maintained to be actually able to see the suspended geometry within.

The Print a Drink can produce nearly any dot geometry through a pre-programmed interface for operating the robotic arm | Print a Drink | Benjamin Greimel | STIRworld
The Print a Drink can produce nearly any dot geometry through a pre-programmed interface for operating the robotic arm Image: Courtesy of Print a Drink

More than the visual oomph, the company and the processes with Print a Drink take into account a more sensory experience with consumers, a segment into which they are currently researching, along with collaborating with a number of gastronomy experts from around the world for recipe development. The process of 3D printing cocktails utilises a specially developed parametric interface that is capable of printing nearly every distinct, point geometry, with a high fidelity, higher resolution 3D printer currently under development as well. Geometries like company logos and key visuals can be specifically programmed and are a huge attraction. The “printability” of the cocktail is determined by precisely adjusting some physical and chemical parameters of the host liquid, including density, viscosity, temperature and alcohol content. The shapes stay for 15-20 minutes, while one cocktail takes nearly 20-90 seconds to print.

The suspended liquid geometry is able to maintain its form for nearly 20 minutes | Print a Drink | Benjamin Greimel | STIRworld
The suspended liquid geometry is able to maintain its form for nearly 20 minutes Image: Courtesy of Print a Drink

The company was founded in 2017, and after acquiring sufficient proof that the technology works and can be employed feasibly, has been gearing up for a vertically scalable business model. A number of beta tests have already been conducted, and at present, the company functions as a unique service for large events and trade fairs, and has catered to exclusive events for brands including Microsoft and Deloitte, and events including Art Basel Miami, the Independent Spirit Awards in Los Angeles and the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. However, the uniqueness of the whole setup has also lent itself to have limited accessibility. The robotic arm alone currently costs nearly € 20,000 and requires expert knowledge to successfully operate. This is as opposed to a regular 3D printer that prints in layers. The company thus intends to make the technology available more widely, facilitating a gradual shift from “service” to a patented “product” itself: one that can be individually operated in high bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and entertainment parks. For this, the process is underway to build a custom made cocktail 3D printer with touchscreen interface and wireless operation.

01 min watch The suspended liquid geometry is able to maintain its form for nearly 20 minutes | Print a Drink | Benjamin Greimel | STIRworld
A timelapse of the Print a Drink assembly at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City Video: Courtesy of Print a Drink

“The main strength of the project is the high level of entertainment,” states Benjamin Greimel, who developed the company starting from a college project. “The project merges technical subjects like additive manufacturing and robotics with far more popular ones: gastronomy and cocktails. Print a Drink  reaches a very wide range of audience and animates them to reflect and discuss on the great opportunities and potential problems of global automation. It illustrates the positive sides since the robot does not replace a classical human activity: it demonstrates a new possibility that would be impossible to realise just with human precision”.

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