Hod Lipson, a researcher at Columbia University, says that the “uncharted territory” of 3D printed food could lead to a fascinating future for consumers.

Lipson has studied 3D printing for nearly twenty years. He and his team have set out to create a printer that would make food as quickly as one waits for a piece of toast to come out of the toaster.

Their prototype uses an infrared cooking element to cook various parts of the printed product at specific times. “We’ve used all kinds of materials, with different levels of success. Sometimes the materials are conventional—eggs, flour, cookie dough, cheese, pesto, jam. Cream cheese is something students like to work with a lot,” says Lipson.

They even let a culinary school in New York test out the printer to see what they could come up with on their own.

Lipson’s printer is not the first food printer of course, but it is unique in its ability to function with several different ingredients and cook settings. He says that this could be the future for consumers, but it could also be the future of food service.

There are many challenges that await that realization, including economic viability and government approval, not to mention the fact that this technology is still a long way from becoming practical. Nevertheless, the research has been interesting.

You can read more about Lipson’s printer at Smithsonian.