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Food safe 3D printing: Which materials are compatible?


We saw that 3D printing and food were kind of linked with the evolution of food 3D printing. If it is now possible to 3D print food, it is also possible to create full objects, small or big parts, and any kind of devices that can be used to manipulate food, or just food related. Nevertheless, if you are planning to print object which will be in contact of food you will have to be particularly careful, as some 3D printing materials and 3D printing filaments can be made with toxic chemicals. That doesn’t mean that you can’t print food safe devices, you will just have to pay attention to some details.

We are going to give you all the tips you need to create food-safe 3D printed parts! Follow the guide to guarantee the food safety of your future 3D printed items.

Food 3D printing: Evolutions through the last decade

Over the last decade, the link between food and 3D printing became stronger and stronger. We saw it with the development of incredible food projects, such as Novameat’s 3D printed meat, many 3D printing chocolate projects like byflow, but also experiments of food printing made by NASA for astronauts. Even Barilla, the pasta company, developed a pasta 3D printer to work on the geometry of their pasta. 

Researchers are pushing the limitations of 3D printing to create a variety of food using 3D printers.

But the relationship between food and 3D printing doesn’t stop there, as additive manufacturing can also be useful to print a variety of accessories for the food industry. Manufacturers can actually use 3D printers to implement more sustainability in their process, work on impressive shapes and geometries, to 3D print molds, prototypes or work on actual finished products. 

Food safe 3D printing: Why it is so important?

Additive manufacturing for food

Yes, everything is 3D printable, and if it is possible to print impressive technical devices for the aerospace industry, it might also be possible to use a 3D printer to manufacture regular kitchen utensils for instance. You may want to create custom-made objects for kitchens. No matter what is your project, if there is a contact with food involved, the materials used have to be totally safe. First of all, it has to be safe for you, but also for the food in order to avoid food poisoning.

To take another example, when 3D printing for medical purposes, you have to use biocompatible materials, that will be totally safe for the human body, that won’t be harmful to health. For any medical use, you have to choose your material wisely. It is the same for a gastronomical use.

The use of 3D printing tends to widespread in a lot of different industry. It is actually a great solution to make food containers but also more personal objects with a great design works and a custom-made aspect.

Mind the risks

Here are the main reasons why you need to use food-safe 3D printing materials or 3D printing filament:

Growth of bacteria

When 3D printing an object that will be in contact with food, the last thing that you want is the growth of bacteria that could eventually contaminate you or anybody else. To avoid the growth of bacteria, you need a smooth material. And even if the object is quite smooth, you will have to pay attention to the design. Indeed, if the food can get stuck in small parts of your design, or simply in the layers, it will encourage the growth of bacteria.

Chemical products from the printing process

A mix of heat and chemicals are actually needed to get a 3D printed objects, that is why you have to be careful on technologies and materials used to 3D print your project, especially if the part will eventually touch food. Toxic particles present during the 3D printing process could have health effect if ingested. It would a shame to be poisoned by a coffee cup!

Chemical directly in the materials

More than 3D printing processes, some materials are made of toxic chemicals ABS is particularly unsafe, as there are toxic chemicals in the filament!  Some materials such as ABS have a high level of ultrafine particles, according to a study by Illinois Institute of Technology and the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Lyon, France. As the ingestion of these kinds of particles can lead to some health problem, we do not recommend you to use them. That is actually a factor that you have to take into account while 3D  printing a part that will be in contact with food.



What are the food safe materials that you can use?

Choosing the right materials

Don’t be alarmed, 3D printing safely for food is completely possible, you just that you have to pay attention to the materials and 3D printing techniques that you want to use. Be careful: using a food-safe 3D printing material is great, but pay close attention to also use food-safe sealant if you need to assemble your parts to create your project. Here are a few examples of 3D printing materials that you can use to manufacture object in contact with food:
  • Ceramics

Ceramic is amazing to create food safe and resistant object, even using 3D printing. If you are looking for a food safe, watertight 3D printing part, think about using ceramic to manufacture it! Cups, plates or even saucers are 3D printable without any toxic chemicals. It might be the most coherent option to 3D print your items.
  • PLA (Polyactic Acid) without additives

PLA is a 3D printing material that is safe for food contact. With plastic injection molding, this material is used to make packaging. It is a perfect material to 3D print project that will not be exposed to the heat of to a too powerful mechanical constraint. But if you want to create litte objects with this biodegradable plastic, such as cookie cutters, PLA filament seems to be a perfect choice.
  • PolyEthylene Terephthalate or PET filament

PolyEthylene Terephthalate is a common material used to create plastic bottles or other classic food containers. It is known to be totally food safe! One of the main advantages of this material is that it can be totally recycled, often recycled at an industrial scale. To conclude, you can just create whatever you want, small parts to the whole 3D printed objects, but you just have to use a food safe filament or a food safe material. Obviously, it will be better for you, and for your customers!

Other tips for 3D printed objects food related

What material will meet your expectations?

Choosing the right materials for your project can be a real puzzle. But once you’ve found it, it will really worth it. The choice of the material is essential, allowing your parts to meet perfectly your expectations and the expectation of your future customers. Regarding the properties of some materials, it could even improve the quality of the parts. Do you need a lightweight material? A resistant one?



Choosing the material that will resist a daily use

Indeed, aside from the food safety aspect, you have to use a material that will allow the object to be usable daily. Does your object need to be heat resistant? Will it be confronted with hot water, a microwave? It would be a shame to get a final object that could be deformed while exposed to warm water.

Moreover, you will certainly want to wash your parts if you are planning to use it with food. Can you wash this material? If you can’t put the object in the water to wash it, it could be quite complicated. Also, don’t forget to be sure that your object is dishwasher safe before putting it inside the machine!

We just told you about the materials that are considered safe for food. But there is also something that you don’t have to reflect: the food safe coating. Using food-safe materials is great, but using a food-safe coating with it, or no coating, is obviously better!

You have a question about food safe 3D printing and the food safe material? Don’t hesitate to contact our sales team to answer all your questions.

What foods could be 3D printed?

Can 3D printed food be eaten?

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