3D printed innovation to redefine food packaging

A collaborative team of engineers from University of California, Berkeley and Taiwan's National Chiao Tung University want to ensure that you never cry over spilt milk again. The team’s developed a “smart cap” for milk cartons that uses wireless, embedded sensors to detect signs of spoilage.

This smart cap combines the innovation of the first 3D printed, working electrical components with a functional, wireless sensor.

“This 3D-printing technology could eventually make electronic circuits cheap enough to be added to packaging to provide food safety alerts for consumers," says Liwei Lin, a professor of mechanical engineering and co-director of the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center to Nanotechnology Now.

The goal of the smart cap and related 3D printing research aims to one day allow individuals to simply hit “print” and have customizable, useful devices in every home.

Lin goes on to say, "You could imagine a scenario where you can use your cellphone to check the freshness of food while it's still on the store shelves.”


This technology will affect two areas: 3D printing technology and food packaging.

3D printing’s a phenomenon that’s predicted to be common to households within a decade. This research offers new possibilities of printing not only solid polymers, but also complex systems, which may take even longer to become available in households due to extra printing expenses.

The current system of food product dating is neither federally regulated, with the exception of infant formula, nor is product dating consistent. This inconsistency leads to widespread confusion on the quality and longevity of products and often leads to increased, unnecessary waste. The smart cap could eliminate food-related confusion and waste simply by alerting us when food goes bad.

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