Pancake Printer; How Commercial 3-D Printing Has Opened the Manufacturing Process, Specifically of Prosthetic Devices, to the Masses.

Author: ORCID icon
Martinez Salgado, Yudel, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Powell, Harry, EN-Elec/Computer Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Wayland, Kent, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Laugelli, Benjamin, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

In what follows, I will discuss the technical and sociotechnical problems that I addressed as part of my STS and Undergraduate Major Design Experience Capstone. Both sections address 3-D printing technologies. The technical part addresses how the technology functions and one of its various applications. The sociotechnical portion addresses the social implications of 3-D printing technologies on society.
For my technical project, my team and I developed a pancake printer. The device allows a user to upload an image to an app which is processed and turned into a set of instructions for the actuators of the printer. The printer then follows that path over a thermally controlled surface while extruding batter which is then cooked and browned longer than the remainder of the pancake to give color differences that result in the image being embedded in the pancake. The specific use case of the project is very lighthearted, but we wanted to see if it was possible to combine 3-D printing technologies, image processing, and food production within our project. I decided to focus on the additive manufacturing aspect of the project for my socio-technical project.
For my sociotechnical project I discuss the technological politics of how consumer 3- D printers have democratized manufacturing, specifically as it relates to the advent of 3-D printed prosthetics. Prosthetics are often required for people who are amputees or have underdeveloped/missing limbs. These devices are often very expensive, almost prohibitively so, for the people that need it. It doesn’t have to be that way though, people have proven that using relatively low-cost commercial 3-D printers and the internet, they can fabricate their own prosthetics at home, or pay the very low material costs associated with fabricating them from people or dedicated 3-D printing services online for prosthetics. The democratization of manufacturing is a good thing because not only does it allow people to get what they need at an often-lower cost, but it also forces companies to improve their products to justify their higher cost or lower costs due to competition.
There is a lot of value in working on these two projects simultaneously. As engineers we often develop our ideas in a kind of vacuum. Like with the famous quote form Jurassic Park, we are often “so preoccupied with whether or not [we] [can], [we] [don’t] stop to think if [we] should.” Working simultaneously on a technology while discussing its potential social impacts allow us to be cognizant at every step of the design process that our actions can have unintended consequences that we should consider while developing new technologies.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, UART, Raspberry Pi, Pancake Printer

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
Technical Advisor: Harry Powell
STS Advisors: Benjamin Laugelli, Kent Wayland
Technical Team Members: Enkhbilig Batsukh, Devin Gardner, Kendall Livesay, Maria Parnell

Issued Date: