CNC Cake Decorator

The AutoFrost CNC cake decorator is the result of a student project a Olin College of Engineering. [Tara Krishnan] and her classmates designed and built the hardware, as well as a Python interface that is used for drawing the design you want printed in frosting. The X and Y axes are controlled by stepper motors, with manual adjustments for the Z axis. The software has setting for the size of the cake, making it a bit more versatile than the last mechanized decorator we looked at. The GUI also allows for multiple colors which are applied one at a time, with the machine pausing for an operator to switch out the colored frosting container. All in all a nice build, but the next rendition should look to get rid of that second Arduino. We can’t think the code is complex enough to warrant two of them. Check out the demo video after the break.


32 thoughts on “CNC Cake Decorator

  1. Ok, one arduino for a one-off project like this I could understand. But TWO? “Due to complete lack of previous experience with Arduino, we had difficulty interfacing between Python and Arduino and again from Arduino to the circuit. We solve most communication errors via hours of experimentation, internet searching, and work with peers who had experience with Arduino.” So the arduino was so hard for them that they had to use two?

  2. Alright, first let me say that this project is really awesome

    Then I’d like to say I wish the major record labels would RELAX videos like this aren’t taking anything from their pocket if anything it’s promoting the song in the video.

    HOWEVER knowing that you won’t be able to embed it maybe people should stop using copyrighted music in their videos theres plenty of good independent / public domain songs they could’ve used

    /rant (sorry)

  3. Having actually frosted cakes (I work in a bakery) I find this hack to be a tad pointless. A skilled decorator can do more complex designs than this in less time.

    I truly complete CNC cake decorating machine should have not just movement of the cake, but also of the head. Cake rotation would be needed for some designs too. Designs like roses would require a head which not only moves in X/Y/Z axes, but which can be angled. Also, variable frosting pressure would be needed too.

    Still, it’s kinda cute. :)

  4. arfink is right. The cake should not really move and the head should have XYZ of it’s own. Maybe even a 4th axis for advanced decorations.

    The reason we see XY tables for milling/machining is because there is more stress on the head, in this case there is no stress on the head, so an overhead/gantry type setup would work better. As for the chatter mentioned, you just need to add a bushing to the other end of the linear actuator for support!

    I have to say that it is a good attempt for some first/second year engineers who may not have a lot of background. (Esp in electrical, it seems)

  5. @arfink

    This would be cool for when my kid wants “sid the science kid” on his cake. The local bakery may not have rights to reproduce his likeness on a cake, but lucky for me i have a dvd, mplayer, ffmpeg, imagemagick, and some programming ability.

    I wonder if there would be a way to pixelize an image, and feed it to this system as input. That would allow printing your face on a cake. I agree that this will not replace a skilled artisan, but this also isn’t doing fondant, or fancy roses.

    Now I would like to learn how to frost cakes, but even then I have to have the time to frost them. This seems a bit better, import pic, install blue frosting, wait 10 minutes while it prints out on my cake, swap colors and wait again. Plus CNC machines are cool to watch.

  6. Blah “skilled decorator can do more complex designs than this”. Really? If the machine had only 1 degree of freedom and it would be used to cut fluffy kittens in half with huge a** knife, you would be commenting that a skilled vet could do much more precise cut or “overkill”?
    The machine operator is the designer and/or responsible of what the (production quality) machine does. This one could shovel sh*t and it would be enough for what it’s build for.

    Besides what it doesn’t do is tweet which is so -2010.

    I’ve searched free/open/royalty free music before and ended up here
    Here’s listing of some other pages but google search helps the most.

  7. i don’t think that the fact that the cake moves instead of the print-head is such a big deal, but why did they choose such a crude graphic to print on the cake. could have done better, faster by hand, writing happy birthday, and my smiley face and exclamation point wouldn’t have come out jacked up. there are tools that will take an image and draw it for you in a paint-style program, as if it were you doing it with a mouse, but with more accuracy. i understand that they couldn’t use the likeness of Mickey Mouse or the Superman logo due to copyright or something, but i would have drawn something in the paint program that i wouldn’t want to have to draw manually on a cake.. perhaps i would like a pie chart printed on a pie, or as many digits of pi as you can fit on the pie, or just some good-ol 8-bit graphics (itsa me, Mario!)
    nice work though, on the actual machine. i couldn’t build it, that’s for sure. (coming from a guy who would rather build a switch out of copper wire and a dc motor, to blink an LED than buy an arduino.) i like how they taught the one arduino how to use an arduino, so that they could use an arduino.. kinda like hooking a big, obedient dog to a little shithead dog so you don’t have to actually walk the dog yourself. swapping out the frosting colors really saves alot of trouble in the design. why deal with building a multicolor frosting printer when you can just type a couple lines of code? Ingenious. unless Ingenious means not genius, like Inflammable means.. oh wait

  8. My Grandfather was a baker, and he used to use an old record-player as an aid to cake-decorating – he basically treated it as a lathe.

    For round cakes, the same could apply for printing – a constant rotational speed matched to a constant tracking speed along a radius scans the whole surface and can be done purely mechanically.

    All that’s needed then is something to apply ‘drops’ of frosting with the timing correct – just like a POV display in slo-mo.

    It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man in such a simple mechanism to use multiple colours laid in sequence, or even built up in layers in the manner of a 3d printer?

    Just thinking out loud in the hope it might spark a cascade of ideas in somebody with the inclination to experiment… ;-)

  9. These machines will be HUGE… you design your own cake at the supermarket website, and you go pick it up an hour or two later…

    The store just pays some jerk minimum wage to operate the machines, and the machines have all the “talent”

    You watch… it’s already started to some level with those “print your face on a cake” things… now it will expand to adding pre-selected options of roses, balloons, banners, etc… all done by machine.

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