Laser-Cut Gingerbread Trailer Home

Ah, the holiday gingerbread house. A traditional — if tedious — treat; tasking to create, delicious to dismantle, so why not try applying some maker skills to making the job of building it easier? [William Osman] decided to try two unorthodox approaches to the gingerbread construct; first, he opted to build a gingerbread mobile home. Secondly, he cut the pieces out with a laser cutter.

After the tumultuous task of baking the gingerbread sheets, [Osman] modeled the trailer in SolidWorks and set to work cutting it out on his home-built, 80W laser cutter. Twice. Be sure to double check the home position on any laser cutting you do, lest you ruin your materials. Also — though this might be especially difficult when modelling food in any CAD programs — be sure to account for the thickness of your materials, otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of trimming on your hands. At least gingerbread cuts easily.

Hot glue and royal frosting secured the pieces together — as well as some improvisation of the final details — making for a picture perfect holiday scene — from a certain point of view.

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OpenAg Is A Personal Food Computer

When a device that calls itself a personal food computer lands in your timeline, what image springs to mind? A cloud-connected diet aid perhaps, advertised on TV infomercials by improbably fit-looking Californian ladies crediting all their health to a palm-sized unit that can be yours for only 199 dollars. Fortunately that proved not to be the case, and on further reading our timeline story was revealed to be about a computerized farming device.

The OpenAg Food Computer  from the MIT Media Lab Open Agriculture Initiative bills itself as:

“a controlled-environment agriculture technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber”

It takes the form of a tabletop enclosure in which so-called climate recipes to replicate different conditions for plant growth can be tested. It’s probably fair to say that in this most basic form it is more of an educational device than one for full-scale food production, though they are applying the same technologies at a much greater scale. Their so-called “Food servers” are banks of OpenAg environments in freight containers, which definitely could be used to provide viable quantities of produce.

The good news is that the project is open source, and their latest story is that they have released version 2.0(alpha) of the device. If you are interested, you can read the documentation, and find all the resources you need to build one on their GitHub repository. They page linked above has a video that’s very much of the slick PR variety rather than the nuts-and-bolts, so we’ve sought out their build video for you below the break instead. Continue reading “OpenAg Is A Personal Food Computer”

Insanely Hot Oven Makes Pizza in 45 Seconds: Avidan Ross on Food Hacking

In the future, nobody will have to cook for themselves: the robots will take care of it all for us. And fast! At least if folks like [Avidan Ross] have their way. He gave a talk on his 45-second pizza robot, and other DIY food automations, at the 2016 Hackaday SuperConference, and you’re invited to pretend that you were there by watching this video.

Why would you want to build machines to build food? It’s a serious challenge, and there’s always going to be room to improve and new frontiers to cross. There’s immediate feedback: [Avidan] gets to taste and tweak in a quick feedback cycle. And finally, everybody eats, so it’s not hard to find “test subjects” for his work.

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Sandwich Robot Keeps You Fed So You Can Keep Hacking

Food. A necessary — often delicious — interruption of whatever project you’re currently hacking away at. Ordering takeout gets expensive and it’s generally unhealthy to subsist solely on pizza. With the Sandwich-O-Matic, a simple voice command fulfills this biological need with minimal disturbance of your build time.

Built for a thirty-six hour hackathon, the Sandwich-O-Matic is controlled by a Photon and an Arduino. The backend is running node, hosted on AWS, and Google Cloud was used for voice to text recognition. This thing is a fully automated and voice controlled sandwich building station. A DC motor services the toaster, while the rest of the device is actuated by servos. Simply tap the ‘begin recording’ button on the site, tell it your ingredient choices, and off it goes.

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Open Source Pancakes

It is definitely a first world problem: What do you do when creating a custom pancake requires you to put a design on an SD card and plug it into your pancake printer? This is what was nagging at [drtorq]. Granted, since he works for a publication called “The Stack” maybe a pancake printer isn’t so surprising. [drtorq] built the custom PancakeBOT software on Linux as a start to his hacking on the flapjack creating robot.

[drtorq] promises more hacking on the printer in the future, so this is just step one. We expect the mods will be a lot like a typical 3D printer, except the heated bed is absolutely necessary on this model. The printer is more like a CNC engraver than a 3D printer since it is basically an XY carriage with a nozzle that flows batter instead of polymer.

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Using Robotics To Film the Perfect Hamburger Shot

It’s no secret that a lot of time, money, and effort goes into photographing and filming all that delicious food you see in advertisements. Mashed potatoes in place of ice cream, carefully arranged ingredients on subs, and perfectly golden french fries are all things you’ve seen so often that they’re taken for granted. But, those are static shots – the food is almost always just sitting on a plate. At most, you might see a chef turning a steak or searing a fillet in a commercial for a restaurant. What takes real skill – both artistic and technical – is assembling a hamburger in mid-air and getting it all in stunning 4k video.

That’s what [Steve Giralt] set out to do, and to accomplish it he had to get creative. Each component of the hamburger was suspended by rubber bands, and an Arduino timed and controlled servo system cut each rubber band just before that ingredient entered the frame. There’s even a 3D printed dual-catapult system to fling the condiments, causing them to collide in the perfect place to land in place on the burger.

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Reverse Engineering the McDonald’s French Fry

McDonald’s is serious about their fries. When they were forced by shifting public opinion (drunkenly swaggering around as it always does) to switch from their beef tallow and cottonseed oil mixture to a vegetable oil mixture; they spent millions to find a solution that retained the taste. How they make the fries is not the worlds most closely guarded secret, but they do have a unique flavor, texture, and appearance which is a product of lots of large scale industrial processes. [J. Kenji López-Alt] decided to reverse engineer the process.

His first problem was of procurement. He could easily buy cooked fries, but he needed the frozen fries from McDonald’s to begin his reverse engineering. McDonald’s refused to sell him uncooked fries, “They just don’t do that,” one employee informed him. He reached out to his audience, and one of them had access to a charlatan. The mountebank made quick work of the McDonald’s employees and soon [J. Kenji] had a few bags of the frozen potato slivers to work with.

What follows next was both entertaining and informative. At one point he actually brought out a Starrett dial caliper to measure the fries; they were 0.25in squares in cross section. Lots of research and experimentation was done to get that texture. For example, McDonald’s fries aren’t just frozen raw potatoes. They are, in fact; blanched, flash fried, frozen and then fried again. Getting this process right was a challenge, but he arrived at similar fries by employing his sous vide cooker.

He then wanted to see if he could come up with a french fry recipe that not only allowed the home chef to make their own McDonald’s fries, but improve on them as well. It gets into some food chemistry here. For example he found that the same effect as blanching could be produced by boiling the fries; if you added vinegar to keep the cell walls from disintegrating.

The article certainly shows how knowledge of the chemistry behind cooking can improve the results.