Hacked 3D printer decorates Japanese bento lunch boxes

And to think, we were told not to play with our food as kids! 

Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen some rather impressive 3D printers extrude a whole heck of a lot more materials than just plastic. One area in particular that has generated quite a bit of interest has been 3D-printed food. From chocolate to pizza to pancakes, additive manufacturing technologies will continue to revolutionize the way in which we prepare and consume our meals. Recently, Maker Yoshihiro Asano hacked an AT90USB1286 based Solidoodle 3D printer to create innovative designs on traditional Japanese packed lunches, also known as bento boxes.


For those of you who may not be familiar with bento, these are single-portion lunches that you can either make at home or purchase on-the-go. Housed in a box-shaped container, the meals consist of everything you would need to get through a day: rice, fish, meat, and pickled or steamed vegetables. It is also Japanese tradition to decorate the enclosed items with imagery of people, animals, buildings or other everyday things like flowers.


While the aptly-named Lunchbot doesn’t necessarily 3D print an entire bento lunch for you, it does lend a hand during the decorating process to help you one-up your friends and fellow colleagues while sitting around the table. As Asano explained, the device is essentially a hacked Solidoodle 3D printer that began as a joke yet turned into something much more enjoyable.


Inspired by a rice flour paste printing Delta bot, the Maker designed a specialty extruder for his Solidoodle and wrote a program in Processing for applying dry furikake to his boxes in any shape desired. The software then converts these pictures into simple patterns, which are translated into G-code and used to instruct Lunchbot how to draw the furikake. In order to make this work, the cartridges holding the seasoning are controlled by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and tasked with dropping the flakes onto the rice.

Watch it in action below!

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