One of the side effects of the economic downturn has been some great sales. Over the weekend, I found an automatic donut maker on sale at a deep discount. This fulfilled a lifelong dream. I had long considered larger units, such as the Donut Robot, but I thought them impractical. Not only are they expensive, but they are hard to clean and generally require a professional kitchen. This unit is designed for home use and promised to have tractable maintenance, although donut-making and messes go together like donuts and chocolate icing.
The unit presents itself as a donut maker. At one point in the manual it refers to mini-donuts. Micro-mini-donuts would be more accurate. They're about an inch and a half in diameter with a little tiny hole in the middle. But they taste great when they come fresh out of the machine. Plus the process is fascinating to watch in a Homer-esque way. The machine squeezes out a round halo of dough which it lets sit in oil. It then very carefully flips it over and lets it float down the river of oil until it reaches a platform that gently lifts the donut and deposits it in a tray.
Throughput is a problem. We only get about 2 donuts per minute at the moment. Given the tiny size of the donuts, that's a long wait for a meal. This dough may have been too thick, resulting in overly small donuts. The fundamental throughput problem, though, needs to be solved by parallelism. We hope to build a multiprocessor with several donut machines that can produce the volume of donuts required to keep crowds of students happy.