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Automatic Food Slicer Robot

Accessibility robot, bringing confidence and safety to those who have difficulties cutting food

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The Automatic Food Slicer will be able to slice food for those who are unable to due to nerve damage, disease, or disability. It is an accessibility robot designed with a similar ease-of-use as a microwave.

By being able to simply control a robot to slice food, it is one less challenge for people to worry about. It will bring confidence to the user as they do not need to ask for help for a minute task.

We are working on a "swipe to slice" feature so they can move their finger over the photo of the food on an iPad, and the robot will cut the food. The food will be tracked using augmented reality markers in relation to the robot.

The app will also provide meal recommendations based on the food being sliced. As well as view your sliced food history, and social sharing.

Why does cutting food have to be a task that is difficult for some? We can do better- there should be a robot for this task. Similar to a kitchen appliance, one that people can place next to their microwave.

Here is an overview video about the project:

Here is the system diagram of the project:

The cutting size that the robot can handle right now is ~6cm across, 3cm tall, and 10cm long.


Sub-Assemblies

Here are some of the sub-assemblies that will be used to create the entire robot.

Z-axis Carriage:

This is for the up and down movement for moving the cutting blade deeper into the food. It will need the most torque out of all the sub-assemblies. It has the end effector attached to it.

End Effector Attachment:

This is the main piece of the entire robot, the cutting blade. It will be the piece that will take much of the strain and be the most likely to break. At the same time, it has to be easily accessed for removal to clean it. This is attached to the Z-axis Slicer.

Chassis:

The outer structure of the robot. There will be enclosure doors will be attached, providing a necessary boundary between the user and robot when in use.

Cutting Table:

This will feature an area where you can remove the main cutting board for cleaning. It will rest on top of a table, which has force sensors between another table, to detect the weight of the food on the cutting board. This will all attach to the chassis for stabilization.



Electronics

For prototyping, the main controller is an Arduino Mega. We went with the Mega because of all of the pins. As the project progresses, this may change to a Beaglebone Black for having a potential web interface to raw data logs.

The motors are small hobby DC motors with plastic gearboxes. They do not come with encoders, but I will make my own using a disc with alternating coloured lines and a light sensor. A L293D will be used to control the DC motors.

The sensors under the cutting table will be DIY force sensitive resistors. Using conductive foam between two pieces of cardboard covered with aluminum tape.

The enclosure doors will use a simple button to tell if they are in place or not. A more advanced version could use IR proximity sensors mounted on the top of the chassis (pointing down), to make sure nothing crosses its path.



Interface & Connected Device

Currently we can interface with the robot through a gesture controller and an iPad App. With the app, you can switch to the Developer tab, and press buttons that control the robot as well as read its sensor outputs.

The "swipe to slice" feature is in development. We're working on the augmented reality tracking, so the app will know where the food is in relation to the robot, for when the user swipes the food.

We envision the future of this app to be similar to an assistant, but for your food and diet. You will be able to enter in what food you are eating. The robot will automatically weigh it, and display the result. From there, it will give an estimate on the calories and nutritional values. These values will be saved in history, where you can view them over time.

As a connected device, the app will be able to fetch recommended meal ideas to go along with the food you are slicing. You will be able to save / favourite the recommendations for later viewing. There will also be social sharing, so you can tell all your friends about the delicious steak you are about to enjoy.


Safety Concerns

There are several safety concerns with a robot that is capable of cutting and handles food.

Enclosure:

There will be sensors on the enclosure doors. If the door opens while the robot was cutting, the motors immediately stop.

Emergency Stop Button:

This will be a big, red, button that can be pressed to disengage the motors. It will be located on the remote of the AFSR.

Cleaning End-effectors:

The cutting blade will have to be cleaned regularly. Much of the robot is designed around this fact. The end effector will be easy to take out, clean, and replace.

Removable Cutting Table:

The cutting table will...

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  • 1 × Arduino Mega
  • 1 × DC Motor
  • 2 × DC Micro Metal Gear Motors
  • 2 × L293D
  • 2 × LittleBits (Cut in half)

View all 14 components

  • Thoughts on AFSR + Future!

    Erin RobotGrrl08/21/2014 at 06:32 0 comments

    Check out the video overview we made about the entire project:

    I began this project at the beginning of summer not even having a clue how to go about it. I just kept trying and figuring it out. It has been a lot of fun, what a great learning experience. Now I can build robots with gears and more complicated pieces, w00t!

    The robot was well received by older adults at Maker Faire Ottawa. There were also some kids who liked it, because they want it to slice the crusts off bread.

    In the future, I want to explore two more places that this robot touches on: heating and the digitization of food.

    Read more for the thoughts on this.

    Read more »

  • Automatic Food Slicer Robot: In Action!

    Erin RobotGrrl08/13/2014 at 22:23 0 comments

    We have made some great progress on the AFSR!

    Watch this video to see all the updates:

    It was an exciting moment a few nights ago when we were able to slice our very first piece of food. (Video)

    We will be showing AFSR at Maker Faire Ottawa. If you are around, come out to see it! :D

    Stay tuned for more details and photos of the development of AFSR. We’ll be writing more about it after Maker Faire. The deadline for the contest is soon, quite exciting!

  • Test End-Effector, App, and AR Experiment

    Erin RobotGrrl07/25/2014 at 05:30 0 comments

    In this update we wanted to test the Z-Axis by creating an example end-effector sub-assembly. We used a toothpick as an example tool.

    We also created an app to interface with the robot and control it.

    Finally, we experimented with AR marker tracking.

    Read more for all the details and photos!

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  • Demos: Robot Party & Hammock Talks at Studio Y

    Erin RobotGrrl07/23/2014 at 02:56 0 comments

    Just a quick update talking about two hangouts that we demonstrated the AFSR on! (Also includes a special sneak peek)

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  • Z-Axis Carriage Progress (Part 3)

    Erin RobotGrrl07/13/2014 at 17:23 0 comments

    In this update we continued to work on the encoder- coming up with code to move its position by a given number of ticks.

    We also added buttons to detect when the gear set hits the ends.

    The most challenging part of this update was figuring out that the motor was overshooting the encoder by 1-2 ticks, and trying to fix this.

    Read more to see all of our prototyping.

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  • Z-Axis Carriage Progress (Part 2)

    Erin RobotGrrl07/13/2014 at 16:57 0 comments

    We advanced further into the build of this sub-assembly. Now the Z-Axis can slide along the racks, and we started creating the DIY encoder.

    The most challenging part of this update was getting the DIY encoder set up to show different readings for the dark/light stripes.

    We also solved the existing rack warping problem.

    Read more to see all the details.

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  • Z-Axis Carriage Progress

    Erin RobotGrrl06/25/2014 at 07:27 0 comments

    For first step of the robot we decided to start working on is the Z-Axis Carriage sub-assembly. 

    We ran into some problems along the way, but iterated on the design to get it to its current working state. There are still additional problems remaining to be solved and the feedback system to be implemented.

    Read more for our prototyping adventures!

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  • Sketches

    Erin RobotGrrl06/11/2014 at 05:08 1 comment

    Beginning the AFSR project was kind of confusing. It was difficult to figure out where to start. There’s many moving components in this robot. So I sketched some of the sub-assemblies onto paper. Sometimes for visibility, I skewed dimensions of the sketch to be longer.

    Here is a timelapse video of the drawings being drawn.

    Read more for details and ideas about the sketches!

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View all 8 project logs

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Discussions

zuul wrote 08/21/2014 at 01:32 point
needs revision,... not dangerous enough

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Erin RobotGrrl wrote 08/26/2014 at 02:09 point
Looks like I didn't make it in. Thanks for the comments though zuul :)

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zaphod wrote 08/17/2014 at 21:36 point
cool project, I wish I had had more time to talk at Maker Faire

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zuul wrote 07/04/2014 at 20:02 point
hey robotgrrl play "powerhouse" when you've got it working. it's like some looney tunes mechanical contraption

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Erin RobotGrrl wrote 07/10/2014 at 18:53 point
Sweet song suggestion! 8)

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zakqwy wrote 06/17/2014 at 04:08 point
GREAT sketches. Seriously, well done! Can't wait to see more 3D printed parts!

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Adam Fabio wrote 06/17/2014 at 03:56 point
Hey Erin! Thanks for entering the food slicer robot in The Hackaday Prize! Anything that makes life safer and easier for the disabled is a win project, so keep on trucking! Don't forget to upload your prototypes as you bring your sketches into the real world!

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Erin RobotGrrl wrote 06/25/2014 at 07:12 point
Thanks Adam. I keep envisioning the reaction on peoples faces when it will be able to cut food for them. It will be a long journey, but if I reach that point... so worth it!

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TheNorminator wrote 06/17/2014 at 00:08 point
I feel as if this is lacking the attention it deserves. I approve of this project

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