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AZ Tech Beat | September 19, 2018

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Army MREs have a new ally, the 3D printed pizza

Army MREs have a new ally, the 3D printed pizza
Tishin Donkersley

Imagine a chicken fajita tortilla dinner having a shelf life of over three years, and once it’s time to eat it, that mexi-dish tastes like the best meal you’ve had in a long time.

For our United States Armed Forces, those dishes are known as Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) and are the main operational food ration for soldiers in the field. These MREs are designed to be eaten anywhere with a little bit of water and a heater.

Soldiers can choose from 24 entrees and over 150 items in the MRE chain to provide them nutrition to keep on going…surviving.

While the freeze-dried veggie burger with BBQ sauce, chili with beans and chocolate pudding MRE options aren’t going anywhere for the near term, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) is experimenting with the option of 3D applications for food processing and product development.

Lauren Oleksyk, food technologist for NSRDEC said, “The mission of the team is to advance novel food technologies…and we will advance them as needed to make them suitable for military field feeding needs.”

At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, 3D Systems released its kitchen-ready food printers, ChefJet and ChefJet Pro, and showed off the ability to print chocolate, sugar cubes and more. While NASA is already experimenting with the use of 3D food printers in deep space, the Army is researching the use of this technology to print more nutrient-rich foods for consumption during a “warfighter-specific environment, or on or near the battlefield,” Oleksyk said.

READ: 3D Systems rolls out food printing machine

Looking to the future, NSRDEC is considering this technology to potentially reduce costs for food production and offer on-demand printing in the field.

“We’re interested in printing food that is tailored to a Soldier’s nutritional needs and then applying another novel process to render it shelf stable if needed,” Oleksyk said.

In addition, if a soldier is lacking in a certain nutrient, the ability to print that protein or vitamin could become a reality.

Thank you to all who have served in our Armed Forces.

Read our extensive coverage of 3D printing from 2014 Consumer Electronics Show and more at AZTB

Contributions from NSRDEC and GoArmy.com