Interview with Nico Kläber (Moléculaire) Electrolux Design Lab finalist

Electrolux Design Lab 2009 finalist Nico Kläber is the German designer behind Moléculaire, the 3D molecular food printer. He is a student at Köln International School of Design in Germany.

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Print and eat your food

Nico Kläber takes the marriage of science and cooking to a new level with “Moléculaire”, the 3D molecular food printer. Moléculaire is influenced by chefs that scientifically and painstakingly experiment with food and food states to surprise and provoke fresh ideas in cooking. Kläber recognizes that this approach, as it currently exists, requires great skill, time and knowledge. The Moléculaire simplifies the process and acts as a computer numerical control (CNC) food printer for both professional and domestic kitchens. It autonomously prepares basic and otherwise difficult to create two and three dimensional parts of meals. It works with a layer by layer printing process using small particles from diverse ingredients. This provides simplicity, accuracy, repeatability and, of course, great tasting food!

What was the inspiration for your concept?
The inspiration was the experimental approach to molecular cooking. Even after several decades of molecular cuisine, it still seems to be an exclusive game for specialists. So it became my main goal to bring some of the fantastic possibilities and ideas of molecular cooking to all ambitious cooks with an easy to use, affordable appliance.

How does your concept fit into this year’s competition theme “Designs for the next 90 years”?
I think the idea of molecular cooking is forward-looking, but the procedures and methods of preparing molecular dishes are still conventional. I would like to change this with my concept. At first, the idea of printing food seems to be something straight out of a science-fiction movie, but on second thought it is not unrealistic at all. I even think that Moléculaire could be the future kitchen tool that opens up possibilities for food-makers interested in molecular cooking.

What are the main consumer benefits of your concept?

Moléculaire is a futuristic kitchen appliance that offers several new possibilities to professional chefs as well as home users. It’s based on a layer-by-layer printing technique that arranges small particles from a set of ingredients. Within minutes, it prints out three-dimensional desserts, complex structures, shapes for molecular dishes, and patterns for decorating a meal. In addition, it’s easy to use. You simply insert a blister pack into the reservoir, place Moléculaire on top of a plate, and press the start button. Users can also create their own recipes with special software and their own ingredients. Ambitious users can download recipes and share them with other users in an online community.

Describe the consumer research behind your concept.

I conducted interviews with chefs and did a lot of research on the Internet. These approaches helped me to understand users’ interests, concerns, wishes, needs and desires. The outcome shaped my initial ideas and helped them grow. The most difficult thing about designing for the future is predicting the possible social and technological developments (their direction and speed). Therefore, it was very useful to read reports like sociological studies about cooking and future scenarios about the development of new technologies.

What kind of materials would you use to build your concept?

For my concept, I would use polycarbonate as the main material. I plan on applying this material in three different variations, each providing the right characteristics for the different parts of my design. Transparent polycarbonate can be used for the window, black tinted for the lid/display, and white for the body. The robotic printer arm and head could be made from aluminum. A blue (O)LED backlight accentuates the processes inside the printer.

Who is your favorite designer?
I don‘t have a favorite designer.

What are your career goals?
After I graduate in 2010, I want to gain more professional experience in a product-design company. In the long term, I want to further develop my conceptual and strategic skills and step into product-related design management.

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