Burritobot: an innovative 3-D printer to design bean burrito.

The Burritobot is a 3-D printer that let users fabricate a delicious bean burrito via an iPhone interface mechanism.

New York University graduate student Marko Manriquez developed a hell of a thesis project for the school’s ITP program: A 3-D printer that assembles made-to-order burritos via a custom iPhone app. The project, dubbed Burritobot, is more than just a stunt novelty--it’s a sneak peak at the future of fast food.

The Burritobot exists at the fringes of 3-D printing. Unlike some 3-D printers which extrude layer upon layer of plastics (or other materials) to create a three dimensional object, the Burritobot extrudes customizable amounts of Mexican ingredients onto a pre-made tortilla to a user’s taste. A carousel contains caulking gun-like canisters of black beans, pinto beans, cheese, pico de gallo, cream, mild salsa, and hot salsa with the dispensers controlled via iOS app or a Ruby-based web app. The user then plays with sliding scales embedded in the app that allows them to calibrate the exact amount of each ingredient on the burrito.

Manriquez currently has the Burritobot in prototype mode. An early version of the burrito printer debuted at the ITP Spring Show. According to Manriquez, a variety of inspirations fueled the Burritobot--from Taco Bell, all the way to Hot Pockets:

However, Manriquez’s real genius is in streamlining--and automating--fast food assembly, and creating proof-of-concept for total lunch customization by the end user. The novelty of the Burritobot is besides the point; it also allows the eater to instruct a robot on how to create their meal in minute detail. Various fast food chains have played with the idea of letting users order by touch screen--the best known domestically is the beloved Pennsylvania-area convenience store chain Wawa. The web/iOS interface for Burritobot takes this to the next level by letting diners create their exact meal via proxy.

The ultra-competitive fast food industry is always looking for ways to engage customers, reduce costs, and reduce wait times for food. Burritobot’s technology might become a perfect exemplar of this, to the point where it even removes the human from the equation. As smartphones become integrated even more deeply into everyday life and mobile payment solutions such as Square and Google Wallet gain widespread use, fast food chains will do the next obvious thing and enable ordering via smartphone. If it’s good enough for Seamless or Grubhub, it’s good enough for McDonald’s and Domino’s (who are already there). Prototype systems for hamburgerbots or pizzabots that run safely, efficiently, and quickly with minimal interaction are also completely feasible with the right R&D investment. That’s great news for fast food corporations and their shareholders, but the technology also has deep consequences for America’s service sector as it matures over the next decade. Products don’t develop in vacuums, and corporate labs are working on similar products to Manriquez’s quirky invention--only with a much deeper profit motive.

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Make it happen !!


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