Since before the beginning of history, people have prepared their meals by combining ingredients and cooking them, often a time-consuming process. An associate professor at Ewha Women’s University in South Korea named Jin-Kyu Rhee is developing a new way to prepare a meal using a 3D printer, according to ZME Science.

Rhee’s team developed a 3D printer that combined carbohydrate and protein powders with heat and water, which created food with familiar textures and properties. The process was customized to such an extent that the end product’s absorption into the body was controlled by tweaking its microstructure.

The idea of 3D printing food is not new. A few years ago, NASA funded a project to 3D print a pizza several years ago. The space agency is interested in making meals with this technology for astronauts on deep-space voyages. Rhee and his team are more interested in custom-made meals tailored for individual tastes and health needs. The technology could be used to make a meal for a family at a typical home or to mass-produce food products on an industrial scale when it is finally refined.

Consider that the raw materials fed into a food printer would have a virtually unlimited shelf life. 3D-printed food would cut down on waste that is associated with storage and transportation. Custom-made meals would tend to be healthier for individuals than most that are thrown together from ingredients bought at the local supermarket because of precise controls over what goes into them.

The trick will be to create meals that are just as visually appealing and tasty as the ones cooked by conventional methods. Until the technology is refined in such a way it will likely not achieve widespread acceptance. A steak or a salad that comes out of a 3D printer should look and taste as good as, if not better than, those that come out of a conventional kitchen.