July 20, 2015 | By Kira

Let’s say the UN was going to throw a party, and had to select one of the most universally loved, versatile, and happiness-inducing foods to put on the menu. There would be dozens of meals to choose from, but certainly pancakes would be at the top of the list. From France, where delicate crêpes are served with sugar and lemon, to South Korea, where they are fried with seafood, to my home country of Canada, where we make them thick and fluffy and drown them in maple syrup, pancakes are a worldwide favorite. Now, an enterprising company in Beijing has introduced a 3D printed pancake robot to take the humble street-food snack to next-level greatness.

The 3D printed pancakes are available at Good Luck Eating, a pancake shop in the SOHO district co-founded by former IBM employee Wu Yili. Yili left the well-paying job in order to pursue his pancake dream, along with a former classmate from Tsinghua University, Shi Kanle, who had already founded a 3D printing startup.

Though this isn’t the first time we’ve seen 3D printed pancakes, Yili’s invention has been deemed ‘China’s first pancake robot.’ The machine, composed of a base pan on the bottom and 3D printed upper, uses 3D printing technology to design customized shapes and patterns, and then ‘prints’ the batter onto a heated pan.

The pancakes are made in several steps. First, the batter must be mixed to just the right consistency—too thick and it won’t flow smoothly out of the extruder, too thin and it won’t hold its shape. Next, the batter is poured into a jar which is then loaded into the upper part of the robot. At this stage, the customer can select a design or pattern via an app. Currently, only pre-selected patterns are available, however, in the future, Wu Yili predicts cusomters will be able to upload their own images and even order the pancake via the popular instant-messaging app We-Chat.

Once the pattern has been selected and the pan is properly heated, the robot carefully deposits the batter just so. After a few minutes, the pancake is gently flipped, and voila! Your standard, disk-shaped pancake has transformed into an intricate geometric design, or even a Hello Kitty. Each pancake sells for around 10 RMB ($1.60), while the pancake robot itself can be rented for roughly $160 per year.

Wu Yili with his wife, Lui Jiaxue

So far, the pancakes have been extremely popular amongst Beijing’s pedestrian shoppers, eager to escape the sweltering city heat and pop into the refreshingly cool café for a cheap and novel snack. In the near future, the Good Luck Eating team (composed of Yili, his wife Lui Jiaxue and former IBM employee Feng Wie) hopes to develop more flavors, add more patterns, and install the We-Chat ordering service. They also hope to open more locations and bring the fun of 3D printed pancakes to the whole of China, and maybe even beyond. The good news is, whether you like them for breakfast, dessert, or anything in between, when it comes to pancakes you can almost never go wrong.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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