Will 3-D printers one day make food?

A 3-D printer creates a heart using chocolate during the 3-D Print show at the Business Design Center in London, U.K., on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. Popularity for 3-D printers has increased among engineers, designers and manufacturers as prices have fallen, making them affordable to more consumers. (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – It’s a technology that is both appealing and controversial. It can be used to make jewelry, kitchen tools and even locks.

But will 3-D printers eventually be used in the food industry?

Based on recent technologies showcased at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the answer is “yes.”

According to food attorney and food expert Mary Beth Albright, 3-D printers are machines that layer bits of material to make a three-dimensional object.

“It looks just like a printer, but instead of coming out with a piece of paper, it comes out with a real, solid, three-dimensional object,” Albright says.

And what’s more solid than a hard piece of candy or a slice of pizza?

“NASA came up with this idea a year ago and put it out to contractors (asking them to come) up with a food printer where you basically just put in powdered ingredients and water, and it prints out food,” Albright says.

Tech companies jumped on this idea, and a few 3-D food printers were demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show. According to Albright, these printers range in cost from $5,000 to $10,000.

“What these printers do, that were just introduced, are things like you put sugar and water in and they make very elaborate-looking candies,” Albright says.

Barilla, the pasta company, is also working on a 3-D pasta maker, according to Albright.

“You could put in dough or filling and it literally prints out a ravioli or a tortellini,” she says.

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