60 SERVO 01.2018
An article in the November 2017 issue of Wired, entitled, “Invasion
of the Kitchen Bots” highlighted six
interesting applications of robotics in
food preparation. One was Zume
Pizza that I’ll detail later, but others
included a salad making robot called
Green Goddess; a burger maker called
Burgermeister; and an espresso
machine called Cafe X, among others.
Robotics is finding useful applications
throughout the home and commercial
Robots in Modern
Before delving into commercial
robotics applications, let’s take a look
at home uses first. Robots have been
helping us with home tasks longer
than we might imagine.
One very prevalent ‘robot’ in our
homes is the washing machine.
Frequently, definitions of a
robot include clothes and
dishwashers since they have
many programmable cycles and
provide different motions with
different water applications for
either clothes or dishwashing
Today’s machines are
programmable to give a
specific set of clothes washing
steps such as lengths of time
for each cycle; the force
required for delicate fabrics
versus work clothes; water
temperatures from cold to hot;
the amount of water needed for sizes
of loads; times to add detergent and
fabric softeners; spin times after
rinsing; and other considerations. Early
washing machines used a series of
mechanical cams as shown in Figure
1 to sequence different leaf switches
to key motors and solenoid valves.
Another type of switch/programmer
unit is shown in Figure 2.
Today, most washing machines
use a microcontroller and an LCD
panel to indicate states in the washing
process, with membrane switches to
‘program’ a desired washing cycle. A
microcontroller is not only very low
cost and easy to manufacture, it’s
more reliable than rotating cams
triggering a row of leaf switches.
Robots Help in Home
Washing machines and
dishwashers are not the only ‘robotic’
devices that can be found in homes.
Automatic bread makers were quite
popular in the mid ‘70s and are still
sold today. There are hundreds of
different models on the Internet.
I have a great weakness for bread
— especially for bread right out of the
oven. That wonderful aroma
permeating the house as it is sitting
on the kitchen counter cooling
is just too much for me to
The first bread maker that
I bought for my wife, Sue was
made by DAK; a similar model
is shown in Figure 3. The
Turbo-Baker II is a much later
model than the one we had,
but it still looks a lot like R2D2
with a glass-domed head.
The inner baking pan is
cylindrical, which is different
from most other models that
use a rectangular pan.
(Personally, I think the round
by Tom Carroll T WCarroll@aol.com
Robots that Cook
and Handle Food
One job that seems to take a lot of time is cooking and handling foods. The efforts required for
these tasks are not as critical for homeowners as they are for commercial kitchens,
restaurants, and food product suppliers where every second counts in the various operations
needed for food processing. Automation and the application of robotic operations can quickly
become a viable option for those in the food industry.
Figure 1. Cam drum 'programs' early washing
Figure 2. Programmer timer in washing machine.