During the 4A term the team worked hard to bring to life the design of our solution for a customizable, on-the-go snack machine. The original concept was that of a machine that creates and dispenses a cohesive granola bar through a combination of dispensing, mixing, and binding steps. In our design development stage, some team members visited the Conestoga Food Processing Plant to gather inspiration.
The team began by designing preliminary CAD models for various elements in our design. A paddlewheel-style dispenser was designed for ingredients. A mixing/self-washing stage was also designed that would both mix ingredients and wash the mixer depending on the presence of a pod. The next stage, a binding stage, was designed to compress and cool the mixture, forming it into a cohesive bar. Finally, a mobile gantry cart to shuttle ingredients across each stage was designed.
With the new year rolling in and the symposium only two months away, the team made the decision to reduce the scope of the project while still maintaining a solution to the problem statement of a customizable and on-the-go snack. Instead of a bar, the machine would dispense a carefully calculated trail mix to fit the user’s unique nutritional requirements. The complex mixing, binding and washing steps, as well as the as-yet not designed wet ingredient dispenser were no longer required, allowing the team to focus on accurate and precise dispensing, the gantry cart, and the user experience/algorithm.
The past week has been a busy time for the team. A move away from a paddlewheel-style dispenser was required for more precise dispensing. Tests were performed on a prototype gumball machine-style dispensing mechanism – results are promising in terms of precision, but more design work is to be done to reduce jamming. In addition, the touchscreen and raspberry pi that will be used for the front-end interface were acquired and tested. A preliminary UI and recipe algorithm were created.
In the coming weeks the team plans to finish the design and optimization of an effective dispensing mechanism, as well as the gantry cart drive mechanism. Parts, such as metal blanks for machining and the timing belt and pulleys will be ordered. The electronics, such as hall effect sensing, to detect the gantry cart position relative to the destination dispensers will be prototyped. Further development of the UI will continue.