Scientists have developed a new method of providing information on 3D-printed foods, by printing a QR code within the food itself. Doing so doesn’t affect the taste or outward appearance of the food, nor does it require the use of any labels.
The technology is known as “interiqr” (as in “interior QR”) and is being developed by a team at Japan’s Osaka University. As a proof-of-concept exercise, the researchers recently 3D-printed cookies which were smooth and normal-looking on the outside, but that contained a pattern of air voids on the inside.
Although those patterns can’t be seen under normal lighting, they show up as silhouetted windows when the cookies are viewed from the front while lit from behind. An ordinary smartphone is then able to read the codes, revealing the data stored within.
Needless to say, in its present form, the technology would be limited to use in relatively thin, somewhat translucent 3D-printed foods. Nonetheless, the scientists are hoping that it could ultimately provide manufacturers, retailers and consumers with an alternative to more wasteful, costly approaches such as the paper labels that are routinely applied to fruit, or RFID tags that are applied to packaging.
Additionally, if information such as ingredients and nutritional content could be relayed by the food item itself, less packaging would be needed to display that same data.
“Our 3D printing method is a great example of the digital transformation of foods, which we hope will improve food traceability and safety,” said the senior author of the study, Kosuke Sato. “This technology can also be used to provide novel food experiences through augmented reality, which is an exciting new field in the food industry.”
The team will be presenting a paper on the research later this month at The 35th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology. There’s more information on how the interiq system works, in the video below.
interiqr: Unobtrusive Edible Tags using Food 3D Printing
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