SUTD researchers have developed a simple method for you

image: 3D printed freeze-dried okara snacks with different fill levels and sizes.
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Credit: SUTD

Researchers at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) have developed a method to perform direct ink writing (DIW) 3D printing from okara—A soybean by-product generated from the production of soymilk and tofu — without the use of food thickeners. Despite the high amount of dietary fiber and protein present, okara is usually discarded during the food manufacturing process. Researchers have used 3D printing to reuse otherwise okara powders to create snacks with a controlled texture.

3D printing is an emerging technology for creating food in various forms designed using computers. During this process, food additives (usually hydrocolloids and food thickeners) are added to the food to enable 3D printing and maintain the printed structures. The use of additives, however, can lead to unintentional changes in the texture and flavor of the original foods.

To meet this challenge, the SUTD research team Soft Fluidic Laboratory identified the specific particle size and concentration of okara that achieves the desired edible ink properties to ensure 3D printability. Their measurements suggest that particle size is an essential variable in determining the rheological properties of okara ink. Characterizations of the formulation okara ink were carried out to analyze their rheological and textural properties.

“Our demonstration highlights the recycling of otherwise wasted food to achieve custom texture properties through 3D printing. We believe that our current demonstrations pave the way for realizing the full potential of 3D printing technology for improved food design and sustainability, ”explained Associate Professor Michinao Hashimoto, Principal Investigator of the SUTD study.

“The proper use of these nutritious, underutilized foods would promote the sustainability of the food supply and reduce food waste. We plan to develop more inks formulated with other food waste to enhance sustainability, ”added lead author and SUTD PhD candidate, Mr. Lee Cheng Pau.

This research was published by ACS Food Science and Technology, a leading journal that encourages high-quality, well-conducted studies that contribute to the advancement of food science and its applications. This project was carried out in collaboration with Masaki Takahashi (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan), Satoshi Arai (Kanazawa University, Japan) and Chi-Lik Ken Lee (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore).

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