We knew Dishcraft was working on a dishwashing robot, but until today, we didn’t know what it would look like. The company publicly unveiled its robot and I’ll be honest, it’s not what I was expecting.
Meant for high-volume eateries like cafeterias, there are two parts to the Dishcraft system. First, dirty dishes are dropped off and stacked vertically on a special cart. Once full, a human wheels the cart into the machine, which grabs each dish individually and inserts it into a rotating wheel. The wheel spins the dirty plate face down and into position where it’s sprayed with water and scrubbed clean in seconds. The scrubbed plate is then rotated again where cameras and computer vision software inspect it for any debris left on the plate before exiting the machine into a dishrack or going back in for another scrub. Check out this video of it in action:
There are some things to note about the Dischraft system. First, it only does dishware — not glasses or silverware. Those are still done by traditional dishwashing machines. Dishcraft also doesn’t sanitize the dishes, that is done by existing machines in a cafeteria or restaurant.
But because Dishcraft is only scrubbing the dishes, it only uses cold water and the brush to clean. The water acts as a lubricant for the brush to get all the gunk off. The machine doesn’t use any chemicals and the water can be recycled. By focusing solely on the cleaning of dishes, Dishcraft says it can provide a faster, more consistent cleaning experience with better ergonomics and less breakage.
Dishcraft is part of a larger push towards automation in the restaurant industry. Miso Robotics‘ Flippy cooks food, Bear Robotics‘ Penny expedites meals and busses tables, and restaurants like Creator and Spyce are built around their respective robots. It’s not hard to envision a future where all of these robots are brought together under one automated restaurant roof.
All this automation, however, does displace human workers, which creates its own set of societal issues. Dishcraft says its robot is filling a need right now because hiring and retaining dishwashers is actually a huge problem for restaurants, and if dishes don’t get washed, an entire restaurant grinds to a halt. Dishcraft Co-Founder and CEO Linda Pouliot told me by phone that using a robot for dishwashing can create a safer work environment for people because you eliminate things like slips on wet surfaces and hot water burns from overhead hoses spraying off dishes.
For restaurants or cafeterias in need of automating their dishwashing, Dishcraft offers two options. A Dishcraft robot can be leased and installed on-site, or they can use Dishcraft’s “dishes as a service.” This “DaaS” option works much like linen service, only with plates. Dishcraft drops off enough dishware for two days (or so) worth of service and then comes and collects the dirties to wash them off-site. Dishcraft is in pilots right now, and pricing was not disclosed.
Dishcraft has raised more than $25 million to date from investors including Baseline Ventures, First Round Capital, and Lemnos. Pouliot spoke at our Articulate food robot conference earlier this year along with Miso Robotics’ CEO, Dave Zito about Building Towards Integrated Robot, Human Work Environments. You can watch the entire session here: