With the "CocktailAvenue", a start-up company in Friedrichshafen has invented a completely new way of mixing cocktails: a machine performs this task. This is a new although somewhat exotic area of use for automation technology. Also used: drive systems and energy chains from igus®.
They hoover up dust, clean windows and mow the lawn: robots– or, generally speaking, automated systems – are used not only in industry but also and increasingly in the home. At Motek 2014, a unique automation system was shown for the first time and performs a very special task: mixing cocktails – quickly and very precisely.
The way in which the "CocktailAvenue" – this is what the system is called – works is easy to explain. The user chooses a cocktail on the touchpad and places a glass in the holder, which is mounted on a linear axis and travels below one of nine bottles. A lifting pin moves upwards out of the holder, in the process opening a dispensing unit that fills the desired amount of the liquid into the glass. The process is then repeated, depending on the number of ingredients in the cocktail. The linear unit then moves to a separate station where the glass if filled with one or several juices - This completes the cocktail mixing process.
The entire process can be seen, as can the drive. A real "eye-catcher", not only for industrial automation technology trade fairs but also for other events, private parties and, of course, in the area of gastronomy; after all, cocktails are "in".
The idea of the "cocktail machine" comes from Robert Becsei in Friedrichshafen. He established the start-up company AlphaInvent and is now working with his business partner Wilhelm Merker on further development of the business idea, which catering companies and bar owners, for example, are currently greatly interested in. This is not surprising. Robert Becsei: "Watching the machine mix a cocktail generates a considerable "wow" effect. “
But there are also more sober and economic reasons for the CocktailAvenue, as Becsei explains: "The machine is maintenance-free, bottle changing is also easy. There are no drink-dispensing losses and the user can use the documentation function to quickly find out what cocktails sell well at what time of day or night. “
As far as the control system and the software are concerned, development of the CocktailAvenue was not a problem: Robert Becsei is an information scientist and Wilhelm Merker an electrical engineer. Planning and configuration of the components were more of a challenge. This especially applied to the dispensing system and the linear drive.
For dispensing, the developers found a volume-controlled system, which is already being used in the gastronomy industry. Neither of the two company founders had any experience of what linear axis to choose. How does one proceed in such a case today? Robert Becsei: "I did some research on the Internet and found that igus® components were recommended in a do-it-yourself blog. " Becsei then phoned Reiner Nusser, the regional igus® sales consultant for bearings and drive technology, and made an appointment to see him: "At that point of time, we only had a model, which mainly consisted of wooden panels." However, this was enough for design purposes; Reiner Nusser recommended a toothed belt axis with a drylin® ZLW type of drive.
This drive system consists of a double-shaft rail made of hard-anodised aluminium, on which a carriage with drylin® bearings travels. The stepper motor is built directly onto the axis via a motor flange and a dog coupling.
The system was developed for industrial drive elements but is also eminently suitable for moving cocktail glasses along an axis. The axis does not require any lubrication and is therefore the first choice when it comes to applications where hygiene is important. The combination of aluminium and high-performance polymers with incorporated lubricants ensures maintenance-free operation. Moreover, the drive is vibration-free, a factor that is important when full cocktail glasses have to be moved. And the system is insensitive to dirt – even to drops of syrup and other cocktail additives that get onto the rail or the toothed belt Last but not least, the design of the linear axis looks good in the "CocktailAvenue".
Because the axis drives to the starting and home point again after each mixed cocktail, the drive system does not have to work too precisely. For the basic version, therefore, the drylin® ZLW is sufficient; it is supplied to AlphaInvent by igus® ready to install and in the required length.
The linear axis also proves its worth in this atypical practical application and AlphaInvent is satisfied with both the technology and advice received. Wilhelm Merker: "igus has the flexibility that a start-up company needs. " For this reason as well, the energy chain on the axis also comes from igus. It transports energy and signals to the lifting pin that is integrated in the glass holder and operates the dispensing system. And it also supplies energy and signals to the sensor, which scans whether a glass is in the holder – The machine only starts after the user selects a cocktail on the touchpad.
For the near future, the decision-makers at AlphaInvent are planning to add more bottle holders to the modular series. In this case as well, igus® will be able to supply the axis quickly from stock. Development of a more compact machine with a rotatable bottle line is also on the agenda. And, in the medium term, there will also be a version where the drive axis is hidden in the housing. For further information on the "CocktailAvenue", go to the website: www.cocktailavenue.de. Manufacturers of automation systems and other capital goods are welcome to send enquiries to AlphaInvent if they want a solution for the automated serving of drinks to their customers at a trade fair or other event. From the viewpoint of drive systems and bearing technology, the motto "igus® inside" applies – at the drinks bar as well.