An Impressively Functional Tacobot

We’re big fans of useless machines here at Hackaday, there’s something undeniably entertaining about watching a gadget flail about dramatically without actually making any progress towards a defined goal. But what happens when one of these meme machines ends up working too well? We think that’s just what we might be witnessing here with the Tacobot from [Vije Miller].

On the surface, building an elaborate robotic contraption to (slowly) produce tacos is patently ridiculous. Doubly so when you tack on the need to give it voice commands like it’s some kind of one-dish version of the Star Trek food replicator. The whole thing sounds like the setup for a joke, an assumption that’s only reinforced after watching the dramatized video at the break. But in the end, we still can’t get over how well the thing appears to work.

After [Vije] gives it a list of ingredients to dispense, a robotic arm drops a tortilla on a fantastically articulated rotating platform that can not only spin and move in two dimensions, but can form the soft shell into the appropriate taco configuration. The empty shell is then brought under a rotating dispenser that doles out (or at least attempts to) the requested ingredients such as beef, onions, cheese, and lettuce. With a final flourish, it squirts out a few pumps of the selected sauce, and then presents the completed taco to the user.

The only failing appears to be the machine’s ability to dispense some of the ingredients. The ground beef seems to drop into place without issue, but it visibly struggles with the wetter foodstuffs such as the tomatoes and onions. All we know is that if a robot handed us a taco with that little lettuce on it, we’d have a problem. On the project page [Vije] acknowledges the issue, and says that a redesigned dispenser could help alleviate some of the problem.

The issue immediately brought to mind the fascinating series of posts dedicated to handling bulk material penned by our very own [Anne Ogborn]. While the application here might be a bit tongue-in-cheek, it’s still a perfect example of the interesting phenomena that you run into when trying to meter out different types of materials.

Thanks to [Fiona] for the tip.

23 thoughts on “An Impressively Functional Tacobot

  1. I used to sneer at one trick ponies such as this, but am more amenable to their advantages of not having everyone at a party or an occasion breathe on open food these days.

    1. I went to a pot luck last week, just like I’ve done for thirty years. But I witnessed one guy who’s beard was long enough to reach the food digging with a spoon to get the best part. Another old lady and her elderly daughter were hovering directly over the desserts, indeed for five minutes, talking about this and that. I realized how grotesque it was. Gone are the days when people would hold their breath when reaching over the food. No one seems to wash their hands anymore. I wonder about the kitchens from where this food arrived. I have learned to appreciate the glass window at Subway, and their gloves and the distance they need to reach to get the ingredients.

      You are right, this machine provides a certain comfort.

  2. The real buried lede here is the arm that successfully scoops up a thin floppy object, laid flat on the ground, with a fingertip, without scraping, crumpling, or tearing it, and without just sliding it around.

    A missed opportunity was not having the tortilla-curling actuator flap open and closed after it returns to home in a self-congratulatory round of applause.

        1. Yes and while it might still have a last few shreds of relevance to surviving print media, insistance on it’s use in electronic media is as stupid as correcting someone saying “Aargh my laser printer has a paper jam.” to “Don’t you mean a papyrus jamb?”

          1. Yes, it should be retired like all other printing-derived idioms like upper-case/lower-case, cliche, stereotype, typecasting, ‘out of sorts’, ditto, ‘make a good impression’, ‘wrong end of the stick’, and so on. You never hear any of those any more!

  3. This would be perfect for a food truck. Especially if you could increase the capacity to hold more than one shell at a time. You could have the machine make the tacos while you handle the money and look after customers. If you prep the veggies the night before, you’d just have to cook the meat once in a while when you run out. Perfect.

    1. It needs some substantial modifications to be used in a food truck because it doesn’t even remotely meet food safety requirements. FDM printed parts are taboo, because they are porous and cannot be properly cleaned. This device would also need refrigeration, chopped veggies will rot in no time at the elevated temperature in a truck, even if you drown them in vinegar and benzoates.

  4. Dry goods short version (how it SHOULD work) with only a single rotation and well — the food drops — video linked. The tubes just require some undulating surfaces to reduce adhesion and/or even considered a last minute servo to poke the product ~(o.o)~ ran out of time.

    Thanks for the write-up Tom and HAD — cheers.

    1. It was cut for two reasons — one for perspective and two bcz due to the wet food issue (solved with a new designed tube if time permitted (some one else is welcome to improve upon this) not every attempt even dropped any onion or lettuce or tomato — so ayh took takes that at least dropped literally anything. Its truly pathetic the result but its easily fixable. Ayh ran out of time otherwise ayh would have redone the entire video.

      Here is a dry good run with the original single rotation as intended by design —

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