Two universals: People love robots, and people love pancakes. And thanks to a Maker Faire regular, you will soon be able to own the clever machine that combines these two beloved elements into one perfect gadget.
Behold PancakeBot, the automated, custom flapjack-making assistant.
The origins of PancakeBot, which finishes its Kickstarter campaign this week, are adorable in nature. In 2011, at the bidding of his daughter and inspired by an article in an early Make: magazine, Norway-based Miguel Valenzuela created a prototype pancake CNC design using Lego blocks, NXT components, a ketchup bottle, and a standard electric skillet to lay down simple designs using delicious pancake batter. He iterated and refined the project over the past four years, moving from Lego to acrylic, while refining the pancake-design capabilities. This helped generate considerable enthusiasm in showings at Maker Faires across the US and Europe.
Now, for the crowdfunding campaign, Valenzuela has partnered with StoreBound.com to develop a consumer-grade machine that can take your design files and translate them into delicious breakfasts shaped as Darth Vader, a sweet Corvette, or anything else you didn’t realize you wanted to eat. The creation is available as a pledge reward for $179 (final retail price will be $299), and slated to ship this July.
We caught up with Valenzuela to congratulate him on the project and learn more about the campaign and what he’s working on in Norway.
Make: PancakeBot has been a favorite at Maker Faire. How many Faires has it been to?
Valenzuela: PancakeBot, from LEGO to Acrylic version has been at 7 Maker Faires, New York, Oslo (2X), UK, Bay Area, White House and Paris Maker Faires. My favorite is split between the Bay Area Maker Faire and the White House Maker Faire. We launched PancakeBot at the Bay Area Maker Faire and we were fortunate enough to bring my family to the White House Maker Faire as they have been critical to the development of PancakeBot.
M: What was your background before PancakeBot became a reality?
V: I was and still am a father of two and husband to my wife Runi. I have a degree in Bio Resource and Agricultural Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and am a civil engineer. Originally from Calexico California, I have had a fascination with food, robotics, making and mechanics since I was little.
I was in love with the Maker Movement since its inception and actually participated in the 2nd Bay Area Maker Faire with Lift Assist, a device that lifted disabled people off the toilet using water pressure to power hydraulic cylinders. (http://liftassist.blogspot.com)
M: How has the transition been from this being a DIY project into a commercial product been?
V: The transition has been fun and tough. When transitioning to a commercial product you have to confide in the company that is handling the manufacturing that they stay true to your original vision as well as open yourself to their ideas. It’s a compromise but in the end, it worked out well.
M: Do you anticipate this to be a full-time project moving forward?
V: It’s been a part time project and will continue to being a part time project as I hope to keep pursuing my career as a civil engineer. This is one of the reasons I partnered with StoreBound so they could help be the vehicle for handling the details of the manufacturing and processing of orders. It is a dream of mine to travel more and share my experience and story with schools and kids to help them understand how engineering, science and math can help shape and influence the world around them in a positive way.
M: Right — what is StoreBound?
V: StoreBound is a company that helps people bring ideas to market. Its president, Evan Dash approached us last year after the Bay Area Maker Faire and we discussed the idea of partnering with them to bring a consumer version of PancakeBot to market. The wonderful thing about working with Evan is that he is very supportive of the Maker Movement and was on board with how we could proceed forward with making PancakeBot as open as possible to give back to the Maker Community.
M: How’s Norway? How’d you end up there?
V: Norway is wonderful and beautiful. I was actually born in Mexicali Mexico and ended up in Norway because I married my beautiful wife Runi Steen. We moved there after job prospect in San Diego looked grim. As a maker though, it was very challenging because of the high cost of materials and shipping into the country.
M: How’s the Norwegian Maker scene been evolving of late?
V: The Norwegian maker scene is taking off. With folks like Roger Antonsen, Jan Dyre Bjerknes, Hilde Johnsen and Bjorne Nordal who have been instrumental in influencing makers in their local community, it is definitely taking off. But you have to realize, that Norwegians are already born makers and their school system is based around giving people the necessary skills to be makers.