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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 1 February 2007
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Making a machine that can chew like a human was a challenge for the Lifestyle Foods programme. Researchers at Plant & Food Research worked with students of robotics and engineering at Massey University to make a simple chewing machine. What can this model do? What parts of chewing are difficult to replicate?

Transcript

Marco Morgenstern (Plant & Food Research)

In our programme, we’d like to test many, many samples for different ways of reducing the glycaemic response. It’s impractical to look at these things using humans all the time, the way that they that chew. So what we looked at is, is there a way of simulating that with a machine?

The student that built this was in the robotics area. The mechanical engineering people and the robotics people were very fascinated by the problem of chewing. They took this as a challenge and said, “We can build this; we can make a model like this.”

The student first had to do some research into the motion of the jaws, which was published in the literature. From there he had to then develop a mechanical model. And of course at that point, he also had to get drawings for the workshop to make it.

The model is a simplification of chewing that happens inside the mouth. Of course we cannot build a complete mouth because a mouth has got a tongue, it’s got cheeks, and it’s got other sorts of bits and pieces. The tongue and the cheeks play an integral part in normal chewing. For example, the tongue and the cheeks really place the food back on the teeth.

Of course it is very difficult to put that into any mechanical model. So we had a simplified model. The reason why we want to have a simplified model is for digestion studies.

The way that we chew, the way that we prepare the samples is important, and we want to have a method that will be able to give us a sample preparation which is as close as possible to what people chew. So rather than having a simple mixer, or something that mashes it up completely, we want to have something that’s a bit more realistic.