What is it about 3D printing and pancakes? There are so many things out there that could conceivable be 3D printed, like houses, cars, and medical devices, but for some reason there seems to be a disproportionate amount of interest in 3D printed pancakes. Maybe its its the fact that pancakes simply taste great or that that they have been made in the same old circular shape for centuries, that lend a bit of intrigue to the idea of printing one of these delectable treats in any shape desired.
We’ve seen several pancake 3D printers unveiled over the past two years or so, each able to print objects out of simple pancake batter. These machines feature a griddle as a build plate so that as the batter is extruded, the pancake can be cooked. Now, a team of seven former students from Tsinghua University, located in Beijing, China has come up with yet another unique pancake 3D printer, and this one may top them all.
The research students have formed their own 3D printing company and with it have unveiled their new pancake 3D printer. Using the machine is quite simple. You just enter either text or a picture onto a computer/tablet and within 4 minutes you will have a pancake printed out in its resemblance. Anything from a portrait, to cartoon characters, architecture and more can be printed out as a tasty pancake. Prep time to set the printer up and get the design loaded in takes only about 10 additional minutes.
“The first generation pancake printer was too large, too unwieldy, and heating was not uniform,” explained Wang Xin, head of the company’s research and development.
So it was back to the drawing board for Xin and team, as they recently unveiled the second iteration which features a build volume of 50 x 60 x 40 cm, and a much better heating system that cooks the pancakes evenly.
The idea for this clever creation, which not only can print different shapes like the previous pancake 3D printers we have seen, but also print shaded areas within the pancakes themselves, came from a friend of the team who had an affinity for pancakes. Xin wanted to combine science and technology with food, so his company came up with an idea for their latest creation. It took Xin just 3 days to create the software required to run the machine, while other team members focused on the hardware aspects of the printer.
“The longer the baking time, the deeper the color pattern,” Xin explained. “The current version of the printer can only print in one color, but it uses different shades of color to distinguish detail. The drawing order also determines the color depth. The part that is printed first will be cooked longer, thus the color will be darker.”
The current printer is capable of printing pancakes using a mixture of flour, milk, butter, eggs, sugar and baking powder. According to those who had the opportunity to taste them, they tasted fantastic.
Xin, recently brought the team’s new 3D printer to the Xiada Food Festival in China, where they sold their pancakes for 10 Chinese Yuan a piece (approximately $1.57). By the end of the event, they had sold 47 individual pancakes. The pancake printer costs just 3000 yuan ($472), and the team is still working to improve the design. They would like to innovate upon it further, allowing for it to not only print faster, but also print more exquisite patterns, designs and even colors.
“The hardest part is printing a portrait,” Xin explained. “For example, printing a portrait of an old lady with wrinkles can be very difficult. I tried seven or eight times, but could not get it to print out realisticly enough. In the future we would like our machine to be able to print out every single detail accurately.”
As for the business side of things, Xin says that the printer is suitable for anyone over the age of 3 to operate (with supervision). He plans to market the technology to movie theaters, restaurants, and other similar businesses. They are considering both selling the machines, as well as leasing them out.
What do you think about this unique pancake 3D printer? Discuss in the Chinese Pancake 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.