Laser cut pancakes are going to be bigger than 3D printing

by Joseph Flaherty on February 23, 2012

CutLaserCut is a service bureau that offers laser cutting for creative professionals. They’ve done work for Google and Braun, but also reserve time for experimentation. Like any good alpha geeks they wanted to see how far they could push their tools and decided to use their industrial laser cutter to cook a pancake. While it might seem like a frivolous use of such a powerful tool it is important to remember how early we are in the development of home manufacturing. It is hard to make a direct comparison between desktop computing and bench top manufacturing, but imagine if we stopped imagining new uses for computers in 1977.

Also, consider that laser cut pancakes could be bigger than 3D printing. Before you dismiss me as crazy a company called Provocraft turned industrial CNC vinyl cutters into a consumer tech franchise called Cricut that generates ~$250MM a year in revenue. That is ~$100MM more annual revenue than Stratasys or 3D Systems (the two largest 3D printer manufacturers) generate in a year. Provocraft is a quiet company in Utah, that never gets written about in the New York Times or Economist think pieces, but is selling more digital fabrication equipment to every day users than any other company in the world.

To show how these things can come full circle, Cricut turned industrial vinyl/paper cutters into a kitchen friendly tool called the “Cricut Cake” that can digitally cut out fondant for cake decorating and sells it for under $400. It will take a lot of innovation to bring a laser cutter down to that cost, but it is easy to see how it could happen conceptually. Just as Pinterest flew under the radar of the tech cognescenti, Cricut is huge in the suburbs, but not so much in hacker spaces.

Photo Credit

This pancake project is also just cool looking on a purely aesthetic level. The spiral design is neat and you can imagine how all sorts of fun customizations would be possible from illustrative decorative designs to CPC (Cost per Cake) advertising. Disneyworld restaurants are already famous for Mickey Mouse pancakes, now your local molecular gastronomy restaurant can offer brunch emblazoned with Durer etchings.

Tim O’Reilly has a saying that to see what is coming in the future, you should pay attention to the “Alpha Geeks” and that hobbyists will create the future for fun before the capitalists do. This project seems like a perfect embodiment of that statement. I have no doubt that these tools will revolutionize the kitchen as well as the factory and the team at CutLaserCut is giving us a sneak preview of how it will happen.

Thanks to Andrew Sliwinski for the tip!


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  • Duann Scott

    Sweet 🙂

  • Alex Gourley

    I’d buy it, especially if I could make oh-my-gosh dinosaur shapes. 

    That said, don’t you think Tim’s point about alpha geeks leading the way is at tension with your point about “suburb” products like pintrest and cricut flying under the radar of the “tech cognescenti”? 

    I suppose really the take away is that there are many entry vectors for new tech and companies and concepts. In the case of Pintrest I feel like it was the design community not the hacker community, the first time I saw them present around here was at a designer focused event. 

  • Anonymous

    I got an old laser engraver last year and of course zapped many things the first few days. Tortillas were especially fun– nice flat medium– but I doubt anybody would never want to eat laser cut food: the high temperature produces the foulest tasting chemicals you could imagine, much worse than just burnt! Things come out /looking/ awesome, but… yuck.

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