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This student invented a new way to eat bugs to get children eating sustainably

The population of the world is set to hit 10 billion people by 2050 and providing a sustainable food source for this mass population will be a challenge.

Written by George Fisher-Wilson

The population of the world is set to hit 10 billion people by 2050 and providing a sustainable food source for this mass population will be a challenge. One student looking to tackle this issue is Jay Cockrell from Northumbria University with his project Tastebugs, a recent entrant into the Protolabs Network Student Grant. Tastebugs is a toy-like yet functional modular kitchen utensil aimed at getting the future generation more familiar with handling and eating bugs.

Insects are incredibly nutritious and healthy, with whole insect powder being up to 65%+ protein, low in sugar and full of amino/omega acids. The sustainability of the food comes in when you look at the comparisons to beef, with insects producing the same protein as beef with 25 times less feed and of course a far smaller amount of water/energy needed. This rise in conscious consumers paired with the obvious advantage of insects as food has led to edible insect market to be projected to be worth $80 million dollars by 2020.


With this in mind, Jay got to work thinking of ways in which he could challenge children to get out of their comfort zone and begin thinking of insects as a food source. The first thing to do was to create an element of play and customisation. Jay did this by creating a modular design of stackable components that can be detached and attached from one another to be put in any combination the user wants. The components include everything you could possibly need to prepare bugs; a funnel for getting your bugs in position, a dicer to break the bugs down, a mill to make them even finer, an infuser to create an insect stock and a compactor to create familiar bar-shaped snacks.


Tastebugs was created with 3D printing using a mixture of technologies including SLA (desktop and industrial) and FDM (desktop). The transparent parts used for the side windows of each module were made from DSM Somos Watershed, one of the best materials to use when creating transparent parts. The main hosuing for each module was comprised of Formlabs Standard Resin which gives a smooth surface finish and a look similar to an injection molded part. The standard resin parts were wrapped in a wood-look vinyl for the finishing touch to the main body, creating the look of a tree when the parts are fully assembled. The final parts attached including the handles and accessories (the tamper/shovel) were made from PLA which was then post-processed to give it a clean finish. All the 3D printed parts where then assembled with the internal functional metal components to create the final product.

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3D printing was the manufacturing method chosen as it was the only way to get the desired material finishes in the geometries needed whilst being with the most affordable option. Jay used Protolabs Network to source his parts, thanks to having access to multiple technologies and materials all in one platform paired with the 25% student discount provided as part of the Protolabs Network student program. Using 3D printing also means that if parts are to break or new modular components created they can be made on demand.

The next steps for Tastebugs would be to get it in schools and to begin educating children further about the benefits of eating bugs combined with the fun of using such a product. As sustainability continues to become central to consumers lives and purchasing decisions, products like Tastebugs could very well be in every kitchen within the next decade.


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