The new product, a high-volume machine that “prints” frosting from up to six 62 oz cartridges, uses an object scanning system to calculate the height and shape of items it will decorate. From there, the robot extrudes frosting to decorate the pastry with up to six colors. Depending on the complexity of the design, the robot can finish 15-21 cakes (1/4 sheet) per hour or 120-500 cookies. According to the company, this translates to an increase in productivity up to 66% over traditional (read human) cake and cookie decorators.
The base price for the 3D Decorator is $65 thousand and can be leased for $1,600 per month. While that might seem a bit spendy for a frosting-dispensing robot, it could easily make economic sense for a business with a whole lotta cakes to decorate that is paying a human to do all the work.
And of course, the best proof of whether a customer will pay a certain price is, well, customers, and BeeHex already has those. BeeHex CEO Anjan Contractor told me via email that the product is already shipping and they already have customers in markets ranging from “retail grocers to commissary bakeries.”
BeeHex’s transition from pizza to pastries should not be too surprising since pizza printing, while a neat proof of concept that allowed the company to develop their food printing technology, was never really all that commercially practical. The reality is pizza-making is something that can be done more quickly with human hands since throwing sauce and toppings onto a pie isn’t something that requires the precision of, say, decorating a cake.
That said, the company did raise a $1 million seed round from a pizza chain founder by the name of Jim Grote in 2017. Would the founder of Donatos Pizza be happy with the transition to cookies and cakes? My guess is yes, since at the time of the funding the pizza mogul was already talking up possible applications for BeeHex’s technology beyond pizza:
“After pizza, this technology could be used for a wide range of foods,” Grote told Techcrunch at the time. “The company has mastered the technology around dough, which is a real challenge. So it would make sense to expand into other baked goods, potentially.”
And possibly even personalized nutrition. While the company’s latest product is all about pastry decorating, according to Contractor, the food printing startup is already working on a new project with the US military.
“We also have an active project with the US Army to produce personalized nutrition bars for soldiers using the same hardware platform,” said Contractor.
If you want to see the BeeHex 3D Decorator in action, you can see it next month at the IDDBA (International Dairy Deli Bakery Association) Show in Orlando. Or, alternatively, you can just check out the video of the frosting printing robot below: