Automate Your Comfort Food Prep with an IoT Grilled Cheese Robot

What exactly qualifies as comfort food is very much in the palate of the comfortee. Grilled cheese may not work for everyone under every circumstance, but we’ll risk a bet that the gooey delicacy is pretty close to universal, especially when you’re under the weather.

But if you’re too sick to grill up your own and don’t have anyone to do it for you, this grilled cheese sandwich-making robot might be the perfect kitchen accessory. Dubbed “The Cheeseborg” and built as a semester project by [Taylor Tabb], [Mitchell Riek], and [Evan Hill] at Carnegie-Mellon University, the bot takes a few shortcuts that might rankle the grilled cheese purist. Chief among these is the use of a sandwich press rather than a plain griddle. We understand that this greatly simplifies the flipping problem, but to us the flipping, especially the final high arcing double backflip onto the sandwich plate, is all part of the experience. Yes, a fair number of sandwiches end up going to the dog that way, but that’s beside the point.

As realized, Cheeseborg feeds bread and cheese from stacks using a vacuum arm, sprays the grill with butter, and uses a motorized arm to push the uncooked sandwich into the press. At the peak of grilled perfection, the press opens and ejects the sandwich to a waiting plate. As an added bonus, the whole thing is Google Assistant enabled so you can beseech Cheeseborg to fix you a sandwich from your sick bed. See it in action below.

This is far from the first culinary robot to grace our pages. There was the recent CNC sausage bot, we’ve seen plenty of pancake bots, and even [Ben Krasnow] once automated cookie making.

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Breakfast Bot Does Eggs To Perfection

Breakfast is a meal fraught with paradoxes. It’s important to start the day with a hearty meal full of energy and nutrition, but it’s also difficult to cook when you’re still bleary-eyed and half asleep. As with many problems in life, automation is the answer. [James Bruton] has the rig that will boil your egg and get your day off to a good start.

The basic apparatus uses a thermostatically controlled hotplate to heat a pot of water. [James] then employs an encoder-controlled linear actuator from a previous project to raise and lower a mesh colander into the pot, carrying the egg. An Arduino is used to measure the water temperature, only beginning the cooking process once the temperature is over 90 degrees Celsius. At this point, a 6-minute timer starts, with the egg being removed from the water and dumped out by a servo-controlled twist mechanism.

Future work will include servo control of the hotplate’s knob and building a chute to catch the egg to further reduce the need for human intervention. While there’s some danger in having an automated hotplate on in the house, this could be synchronized with an RTC to ensure your boiled egg is ready on time, every day.

Breakfast machines are a grand tradition around these parts, and we’ve seen a few in our time. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

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Stove Alarm Keeps The Kitchen Safe

Gas cooktops have several benefits, being able to deliver heat near-instantly, while also being highly responsive when changing temperature. However, there are risks involved with both open flames and the potential of leaving the gas on with the burner unlit. After a couple of close calls, [Bob] developed a simple solution to this safety issue.

The round PCB sits neatly behind the knobs, affixed with double-sided tape.

Most commercial products in this space work by detecting the heat from the cooktop, however this does not help in the case of an unlit burner being left on. [Bob]’s solution was to develop a small round PCB that sits behind the oven knobs. Magnets are placed on the knobs, which hold a reed switch open when the knob is in the off position. When the knob is turned on, the reed switch closes, powering a small microcontroller which beeps at regular intervals to indicate the burner is on.

It’s a tidy solution to a common problem, which could help many people – especially the elderly or the forgetful. It integrates neatly into existing cooktops without requiring major modification, and [Bob] has made the plans available if you wish to roll your own.

On the other end of the scale, you might want an alarm on your freezer, too.

SauceBot Uses G-Code to Apply Condiments with Precision

You just can’t please some people. Take a 3D-printer disguised as a condiment dispenser to a public event and next thing you know people actually expect you to build a 3D-condiment dispenser for the next time. How can you help but oblige?

We have to admit to more than a little alarm when [ShaneR] sent us this tip, as on first reading it seemed to endorse the culinary sin of putting ketchup on barbecue. But then we watched the video below and realized this dispenser is only applying ketchup and mustard to hot dogs, and while some purists would quibble with the ketchup, we’ll let that slide. The applicator, dubbed SauceBot by the crew at Connected Community HackerSpace in Melbourne, appears to be purpose-built entirely from laser-cut acrylic, including the twin peristaltic pumps for extruding the ketchup and mustard. We’re not sure the Z-axis is entirely necessary for dispensing onto hot dogs, but since this was a community outreach event, it makes sense to go all in. The video below shows it in use at a fundraiser, and while the novelty of it probably sold quite a few dogs, it’s safe to say the food service industry won’t be alarmed that this particular robot will be stealing jobs anytime soon.

Seriously, if your hackerspace is going to have public events with food, something like this could really get the conversation started. Then again, so might a CD execution chamber.

A Clay Oven For Perfect Pizza Every Time

Perhaps your taste for pizza has never taken you beyond your local fast-food chain or a frozen pizza from the supermarket, but there are some people for whom only the most authentic will do. A wood-fired clay oven and nothing less is their pre-requisite, and lesser methods of pizza preparation simply aren’t good enough.

[Jan] is one of these pizza perfectionists, and his wood-fired oven is an interesting one because it eschews the traditional dome for a cylinder. His very detailed write-up gives us an interesting insight into its construction. He’s taken the bottom half of an oil drum as his base, and built and fired the clay oven itself around a wooden former. We see his early attempts at a former which distorted under the weight of clay, and we hear about how the clay required reinforcement with chicken wire and straw. Finally, we see the structure being dried out, before an impressive display when firing for the first time. The oven receives a coat of Rockwool insulation but [Jan] has a way to go to learn the oven’s characteristics. Still, this is an oven that will last to refine the perfect morsel given a bit of time.

We like the cylindrical design as an alternative to domed ovens, which can be a bit tricky to build. An oven may be a bit low-tech compared to some of Hackaday’s usual fare, but they can be no less difficult to get right. We’re no stranger to novel flame-based cookery, perhaps you might like to also take a look at this rocket grill.

Cooking Eggs with Magnets in Motion

It’s probably always going to be easier to just find some dry wood and make a cooking fire, but if you’re ever in a real bind and just happen to have a bunch of magnets and a treadmill motor, this DIY induction cooktop could be your key to a hot breakfast.

For those not familiar with them, induction cooktops are a real thing. The idea stretches all the way back to the turn of the last century, and involves using a strong magnetic field to induce eddy currents in the metal of a cooking vessel. As [K&J Magnetics] explains, the eddy currents are induced in a conductor by changing magnetic fields nearby. The currents create their own magnetic field which opposes the magnetic field that created it. The resulting current flows through the conductor, heating it up. For their cooktop, they chose to spin a bunch of powerful neodymium magnets with alternating polarity using an old treadmill motor. The first try heated up enough to just barely cook an egg. Adding more magnets resulted in more heat, but the breakthrough came with a smaller pan. The video below shows the cooktop in action.

It’s worth noting that commercial induction cooktops use coils and a high-frequency alternating current instead or rotating magnets. They also are notoriously fussy about cookware, too. So, kudos to [K&J] for finding success with such an expedient build. As a next step, we’d love to see the permanent magnets replaced with small coils that can be electrically commutated, perhaps with a brushless motor controller. Continue reading “Cooking Eggs with Magnets in Motion”

The Crustacean Battle Bot of your Nightmares

We’ve all seen a movie or TV show that got our imagination going, and the more studious of us might get fired up over a good book (one without pictures, even). You never know were inspiration might come from, which is why it’s so hard to track down in the first place. But one place we don’t often hear about providing many hackers with project ideas is the grocery store. But of course the more we learn about [Michael Kohn], the more we realize he’s got a very unique vision.

On a recent trip to the grocery store, [Michael] saw a two pack of frozen lobsters and thought they would make fine battling robots. You know, as one does. Unfortunately the process of taking a frozen lobster and turning it into a combat droid (which incidentally does include eating the thing at some point in the timeline) ended up being so disgusting that he only finished one of them. Whether that makes this poor fellow the winner or loser though…that’s a question that will require some contemplation.

The first step was cooking and eating the beast, and after that came cleaning the shell of as much remaining meat and innards as possible. He then baked it in a toaster oven for 40 minutes and let it sit for a couple of days to make sure it didn’t have any residual smell. Once he confirmed the shell was clean, he glued it back together and got started on mounting it to his hardware.

A wooden frame under the lobster holds the dual HD-1711MG mini servos that power the karate chop action of the claws, as well as the electronics. [Michael] used a ATtiny85 and NTD4963N MOSFETs to make a basic RC platform which responds to IR from a Syma S107 toy helicopter controller. He tried to power everything with AAA and then AA batteries, but found they just didn’t give him the juice he needed once the bot got going. So the final version utilizes a 5 V regulator and a standard RC 7.2v LiPO battery pack.

If you’re not big on shellfish, never fear. He’s created similar roving contraptions based around sausages and carrots too. One could say he’s truly a man of refined…taste.

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