PancakeBot is a culinary 3D printer that can transform pretty much any computer design into a fluffy pancake, and at the 2014 Bay Area Maker Faire earlier this month the bot was busy entertaining passersby with pancake versions of popular landmarks and superheros.
The robot, essentially a batter dispenser hooked up to a simple controller and stepper motors, is designed to get kids interested in technology, programming, and manufacturing by appealing to their stomachs.
The project started in the fall of 2010 in Norway when inventor Miguel Valenzuela read an article about a Lego pancake stamping machine made by a British designer.
Valenzuela’s daughter Lily saw her father reading the article and asked if he could make a similar machine for her. Not wanting to disappoint his daughter, Valenzuela got to work and six months later a beta version of the Lego PancakeBot was born. The initial design used only Lego, a NXT set, and a ketchup bottle for the dispenser.
By the fall of 2012, Valenzuela’s PancakeBot was ready for its formal world debut at the World Maker Faire in New York City where it was met with rave reviews and full bellies.
Now Valenzuela has built a new PancakeBot, a non-Lego iteration with a sleek acrylic body and more sophisticated hardware that could be used commercially, but instructions on how to build the Lego version is available on on Valenzuela’s website and he hopes that kids will be inspired to start building.
Watch “Breakfast Gallop”, an animation created by Valenzuela using 3D printed pancakes and old photographs for inspiration:
Project PancakeBot is designed to help kids create and have fun with their food as well as learn about simple machines, coordinate systems, sensors, pneumatics, and viscosity. And by combining food and technology Valenzuela aims to bridge a gender gap that tends to keep many girls out of robotics class.
Most schools that have programs that work with Lego Mindstorms will have the parts available to build a PancakeBot.
“We want to have these in classrooms and after school programs to help inspire kids and adults to create and make,” Valenzuela says.