This year, CES 2019 attendees were treated to the tantalizing aromas of freshly baked bread courtesy of the BreadBot, a bread-making machine that autonomously handles every step of the bread-making process from mixing and kneading to baking and cooling.
The Washington Post reports that the bread-slinging wonder from Wilkinson Baking can produce about 10 loaves an hour, or in other words, 240 loaves a day. Not interested in white or whole-wheat bread? BreadBot can also make nine-grain, honey-oat and rye breads.
The process is fully automated from the moment a human adds dry mix to the hopper. The machine mixes dough into balls before moving them onto a conveyor belt, shaping them and placing them inside individual trays in which the dough is baked, The Washington Post explains. When the bread is prepared, a robotic arm shuffles the loaf to a vending machine where carb-craving customers place orders using a touch screen.
“The big challenge with bread — as anyone who has tried to bake it has discovered — is that it’s a tricky process, because you’re working with a biological organism,” Randall Wilkinson, chief executive of Wilkinson Baking, said to The Washington Post. “To duplicate what a master baker can do with a robot is quite a challenge.”
Unlike professional human bakers who can go with their gut, the BreadBot uses more than 70 data-gathering sensors that scan the bread 100 times a second and modifies baking as needed, according to Wilkinson. Data gathered includes water temperature, mixer speed, proofer’s humidity, and loaf height.
“What we have the ability to do is to know that an individual loaf that came off at 7:39 a.m. had these parameters and inputs and this many grams of water and yeast, and rose to this particular level and had this particular level of brown coloring. You’ve got a lot of AI data that you can crunch for optimum performance, and all of these machines are Internet-connected.”
“What we have the ability to do is to know that an individual loaf that came off at 7:39 a.m. had these parameters and inputs and this many grams of water and yeast, and rose to this particular level and had this particular level of brown coloring,” Wilkinson described to The Washington Post. “You’ve got a lot of AI data that you can crunch for optimum performance, and all of these machines are Internet-connected.”
Human helps are still needed for cleaning the machine and slicing the loaves, says Wilkinson Baking. The company is pitching the BreadBot to grocery stores in hopes of leasing their product for use and Wilkinson reveals that “three of the top five grocery store companies in the U.S.” are interested in testing the machine.
Wilkinson tells The Washington Post that engraved and customized bread loaves could be the next iteration of the BreadBot.
"Using an app, you’d say, ‘I want 40 percent more sunflower, half the salt, and I want it at 3 p.m. on Tuesday,’ ” Wilkinson said to The Washington Post. “Then you’d show up and present a QR code to the machine and pick up your bread.”