There are a few coffee houses sprinkled through the states that specialize in creating artwork using the foam and coffee in your latte. One computer engineer turned barista engineer has turned the art of foam into a robotic skill. Now he's trying to market his latte art robot at this year's Siggraph show in Los Angeles. Some day soon, you may be able to place a Oleksiy's Latte Art Printer on your kitchen counter...
Oleksiy made his first latte art machine in 2007, after he "stumbled upon a little guide, explaining how to make latte art," he writes on his new company's, OnLatte, Inc. blog. "So I started thinking about how to do it from the engineering standpoint. Is it possible to try and build a machine that does Latte Art?"
I ordered an old plotter that can hold up any pouring device in order to spray the medium of my choice. I also ordered a sample inkjet development kit that provided detailed information about how cartridges work, and a small circuit board that allowed some printing functionality by direct control of the cartridges. I modified the firmware of the microprocessor on the kit to spray from one nozzle only, and machined the extension arm for the cartridge so that I can wave it around over the cup.
And so, after some development work, the first x-y inkjet plotter was built. It could print vector graphics on the paper next to the plotter with the regular inkjet ink. Right away I tested how close the paper had to be - and to my surprise an image placed almost 1 inch away from the cartridge was clearly visible. That was good news - an irregular latte foam does not have to be perfectly flat.
I went ahead and ordered some brown food coloring, composed of FC ink mixture, replacing the ink in the cartridge. I went off to Starbucks and ordered a tall latte - ran back to try the design for the first time, and sure enough, it worked. I did not have a camera to take a picture of it - but I remember the sense of enlightening - I was very proud for several long minutes. And then I went back to work on it and improve it further: replacing some of the electronics, mechanics, etc.
After posting a short video demonstrating the machine, the emails started to pour in (no pun intended). You can watch his machine produce a detailed Starbucks logo below.
He describes how to make your own Latte Art Printer here.
After taking his machine to this month's Siggraph, Oleskiy got an overwhelming response and now he and his partner Josh Grob have started their own company in the hopes of marketing their Latte Art Printer to the masses.