PancakeBot’s Kickstarter campaign helped the project raise an amazing USD$460,584.
Billed as the “world’s first pancake printer”, we have no doubt it is, at least commercially available. The device includes a syringe-like extruder through which pancake batter is quickly squirted onto a hot metal griddle for cooking.
Sounds straightforward, but there are some complications: first, you need a digital design to print. For this PancakeBot includes a simple software system in which it’s easy to trace over images to form a 2D pattern for pancake extrusion. The PancakeBot first traces these outlines, then fills in the rest. Since the initial outlines are on the griddle for a longer period, they turn a bit darker than the fill.
Another complication is the need to flip the pancake. For this, PancakeBot has no answer other than: flip it yourself, which is quickly done and little different than cooking a conventional pancake - unless the digital design is sufficiently complicated that it may break if flipped. Pancake designers, beware!
The project was developed by Norway-based Miguel Valenzuela, who had previously created a LEGO-built pancake printer. The PancakeBot is a significantly improved version of that initial experiment.
The launch campaign has now closed, so we’re awaiting deliveries of the first machines pledged to backers, which are set to be shipped in the next few months. We’re expecting the company to begin accepting further orders once they’ve handled the first batches of campaign orders. Retail pricing of PancakeBot is said to be around USD$300 per unit.
We have two observations here. First, the PancakeBot is certainly not a 3D printer: it’s a 2D printer, specializing in a particular food niche that happens to resemble a 3D printer. This is not surprising as the engineering properties of pancake batter are less than ideal for building significant 3D shapes. 2D is about all you can coax out of even the stiffest batter.
Our second observation is that this project’s campaign yielded almost half a million USD$ from interested participants. This is quite consistent with our belief that printing food is a very high interest among general consumers. It has not yet caught on so well with 3D food printing ventures, mainly because of the expense, constraints, printing speed (or lack of) and challenges obtaining useful digital designs.
There’s a long way to go on food printing, but perhaps it begins in 2D, not 3D? It would certainly be a lot faster.