Covered by Singularity Hub this week, a San Francisco based company called Momentum Machines have developed a new type of robotic assembly line that can produce approximately 360 hamburgers every hour. Called the Alpha machine, the device has been designed to replace all hamburger cooks within a restaurant or fast food establishment. Hypothetically, a fast food restaurant could also place digital touchscreen panels with credit card readers and cash machines at the counter in order to eliminate all cashiers as well. The consumer would simply place an order through the touchscreen and wait for the custom hamburger to appear at the end of the assembly line, likely tagged with an order number.

Representatives of Momentum Machines claim that the Alpha burger is superior the traditional fast food hamburger due to higher-quality ingredients. After an order is placed, the meat is ground and stamped by the machine. The customer can also place orders for different types of meat as well as a variety of sizes. The company is also looking to using chicken and fish for anyone trying to avoid ground beef.

When the burger is being assembled, toppings like tomatoes and pickles are sliced to order rather than sitting around in a bin getting soggy in a typical fast food restaurant. All of the toppings are loaded into clear plastic tubes and are released onto the burger as it passes through the assembly line. Toppings within the current iteration of the machine include chopped lettuce, whole tomatoes, onion and pickles. 

The creators of the Alpha device believe that a typical fast food restaurant will be able to eliminate nearly $135,000 a year in labor costs in addition to significantly reducing  management tasks. Conceptually, the machine only requires someone to load new ingredients into the device as well as maintain the cleanliness of the interior during downtime. This will allow business owners to invest in higher quality, fresh ingredients and create a much tastier product while still saving money.

Beyond the restaurant, employees at Momentum Machines believe the device can be installed within food trucks, airports, convenience stores and perhaps self-serve vending machines.

The next iteration of the robotic assembly line will incorporate expert techniques that are designed to cook a burger to perfection and keep all the juices contained within the meat. The company plans to launch a restaurant chain to test out the concept and believes the machine will pay for itself within the first year of operation. However, the company is also looking into selling the technology to other organizations.

One of the obvious advantages to allowing the Alpha robotic assembly line to create your hamburger is that the food won’t be tainted by rogue hairs or coated in the accidental sneeze of a sick employee. However, there’s always the potential for device failure as well. Without any employees around to toss a patty on the grill, a fast food joint would simply have to close until the machine could be repaired. However, if the folks at Momentum Machines become extremely successful in replicating popular hamburger recipes sold at major fast food locations, this technology has the potential to replace hundreds of thousands of employees at franchise locations around the country.