USDA Visits the TechShop in San Francisco and Learns About 3D Printing in the Context of Food and Health

Chris had the opportunity to introduce both the TechShop and the concept 3D Printing to the USDA. (Photo credit: Eric Lai)

UPDATED (February 10, 2015): New questions answered below!

On Tuesday, Chris had the privilege of hosting an special group from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and introducing them to the world of 3D printing but with a twist…3D Printing the context of food and health.  Additionally, the talk expanded beyond 3D printing into the world of digital design and fabrication and how those technologies as well can and are being used in some cases in food innovations.

Concepts such as 3D printing paste made from mashed cricket guts, laser cutting chocolate for caloric intake metering and laser etching ingredients right onto (and into) the foods we consume.  The goal for the group was to get their minds thinking differently about how the food industry might look in the future as these technologies go mainstream.  The USDA plays a large part today in keeping Americans safe from food and food-technologies that lack full insight to their impact on health.

The questions coming from the group were very good…such as “how can these machines scale to 3D print foods to cover the needs of Americans when they print so slowly?”  and “What will the ‘filament’ for food look like?”  Answers to these questions are still TBD and Chris tried to postulate some potential solutions, however they’re only educated guesses at best.

The program leads for the USDA–Ms. Ronna Bach and Mr. Eric Lai–said that the attendees would be participating in a post-talk reflection and brainstorming activity to see what new ideas germinated from the overall experience.  It is with our great hope here at You3Dit that the USDA was able to discuss, clarify and define what safe, nutritious, accessible and sustainable food of the future will look like.

Here’s a link to the talk:  iManufacture – in the context of food and health (PDF)

Were you at the talk?  Want to offer your thoughts / feedback on the talk?  Please do so in the comments and / or this short 5 minute Speaker Evaluation form.

As a kind thanks for filling out our speaker feedback form, many links and references that were mentioned at the talk (in addition to simply being useful as well to get involved with digital design and fabrication are provided at the completion of the form).

Many thanks:

To Eric and Ronna from the USDA.  From all the folks at the TechShop who helped us organize and prepare for the talk.  Ky Faubian who pulled through last minute to help me with a TechShop tour.  To Timur Khan from Nueva Bikes and everyone at You3Dit who continues to help people make anything, anywhere!

Questions submitted via the Speaker Evaluation form:

  1. I would like to know more about the initial skill level one would have to have to take classes. Can a person walk in off the street with no practical knowledge or skill and just have an eagerness to learn and take a beginner’s class?
    1. Absolutely!  At the TechShop in San Francisco (and likely all the others as well), the only pre-requisites are an interest to learn, 2.5 hours of free time and I think about $90 which includes a materials fee (link to TechShop Rapid Prototyping classes).  Not sure if I mentioned it in the talk but I normally say that I get MBA students 3D printing in less than 3 hours (which is not a jab at MBA students…but rather, an illustration of the broad background these types of folks have and how quickly they can get up and running w/a 3D printer).  You will likely still need a technical person to help you troubleshoot problems…and I wouldn’t necessarily 3D print a bicycle as my first project, but the beauty of this technology is it unlocks creativity for those of us who were never before involved in making / manufacturing in the past because the technical barrier to entry was so high.  Now you can download the parts from and have them made locally through sites like ours–

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