Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Dishes on Demand

A Media Lab device creates and recycles tableware on the fly.
October 1, 2005

Two years ago, culinary historian Barbara Wheaton challenged members of Counter Intelligence, a Media Lab research initiative that creates new technologies for domestic spaces, to develop a simple way to make disposable tableware.

The multidisciplinary team of electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, and an architect has responded by developing a computer-controlled machine called the DishMaker, which produces plates, bowls, and cups on demand. And the team even went a step further: the dishes are recyclable, so they can be reproduced for the next meal using the same materials. The idea is that machines like the DishMaker could replace dishwashers–and also save space by eliminating the need to store dishes.

The DishMaker was inspired by the growing popularity of rapid prototyping, a method of “printing out” small objects based on computer designs. Leonardo Bonanni, a Media Lab grad student and member of Counter Intelligence, says the method “could one day produce everything we need locally.”

The DishMaker team has fully embraced the “cradle-to-cradle” concept of design and manufacturing. Its approach focuses on the entire life cycle of a product, which ends not in waste, but begins again as a new product. “Rethinking the product life cycle is not only good for the environment, it can lead to products that are more desirable and fulfilling,” Bonanni says.

After several prototype machines, the team constructed a microfactory the size of a dishwasher that forms, dispenses, and recycles plastic dishes. The microfactory comprises commonplace kitchen components, such as electric motors, heating coils, and microswitches, which are controlled by a computer interface with a microwave-style control panel. To recycle the old dishes, the machine heats them up, softening the plastic until the dish becomes a flat disc, ready for its next shaping. The researchers are now working on a DishMaker that will generate dishes of greater quality and variety–possibly with custom shapes and decorative touches–while reducing required energy and time. – By Jack Curtis

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Five poems about the mind

DREAM VENDING MACHINE I feed it coins and watch the spring coil back,the clunk of a vacuum-packed, foil-wrappeddream dropping into the tray. It dispenses all kinds of dreams—bad dreams, good dreams,short nightmares to stave off worse ones, recurring dreams with a teacake marshmallow center.Hardboiled caramel dreams to tuck in your cheek,a bag of orange dreams…

Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution

As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.

The way forward: Merging IT and operations

Digital transformation in any industry begins with bridging the gap between two traditionally separate teams.

Investing in people is key to successful transformation

People-related factors like talent attraction and retention and clear top-down communication will determine whether your transformation progresses or stalls.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.