Case Study

Developing a Mobile, Rapid-Dispensing System for Beer

Background

The EBar® is a mobile self-service dispense kiosk – pouring the perfect drink in just a few seconds. EBar were seeking to transform the bar experience at events by providing a quick and simple way to buy a drink without the pain of a typical event bar.

The Challenge

EBar approached eg having identified a business opportunity during the entrepreneurship programme of their MBA. They wished to develop rapid-pour technology but required external engineering expertise in order to realise their vision. The primary requirement was to develop a vending machine to pour a pint of beer in four seconds. This in itself brought challenges, as the standard method for dispensing beer is usually slow and into an angled glass to manage fobbing caused by the carbonation. There was also the usual requirement for the beer to be cold, for the dispensing units to be mobile and for the product to be safe and effective for commercial use. With EBar aiming to roll the product out on a national scale, the solution had to be scalable.

Requirement for a temperature-controlled, mobile, rapid-pour system capable of dispensing an exact pint | Invented a dispense technique that pours a pint of beer in 4 seconds | Cross-discipline project, managing pneumatics, fluid mechanics and user experience.

Our Approach

There were numerous challenges with this project, which required a fully integrated, cross-discipline, phased approach. However, the biggest challenges we faced were mechanical. Our team of engineers had to take time to understand the science behind regulating the carbonisation and pressurisation process and how to ensure these were thoroughly balanced to avoid fobbing. The team then developed concept design solutions to rapidly dispense beer without spraying foam everywhere! We created a mechanism to seal a plastic glass to maintain pressure, but consideration had to be made to avoid impacting the structure of the plastic pint container, as glass cannot be used at many large events. The engineers had to ensure that during the rapid-pour the liquid was cooled and the dispense was exactly one pint to comply with weights and measures legislation. We, therefore, incorporated a control system using various sensors and managed by integrated software to control the fluid mechanics of the device. To avoid flow resistance during the pouring process, we specified large-bore, parallel pipes which split the beer flow to increase throughput.

Safety was a critical element of the entire project and we ensured that any risks were mitigated by the control system, ensuring that the system pneumatics could not be activated unless the unit door had been fully closed and the interlock system engaged. We made an alpha prototype of the proposed solution to enable the client to go to market and engage with potential buyers.

Our Results

Our team managed the project from specification writing and concept generation, through to problem-solving, risk management and prototyping. They were successful in developing a patented dispense technique that consistently pours two separate pints of beer in four seconds, without excessive fobbing. EBar were able to leverage our extensive design and development engineering expertise and since the initial prototyping work, they have developed their fleet from a pre-production prototype to three production EBar® units with integrated Point of Sale software, payment solution and data reporting. The entire payment to drink process takes less than 30 seconds; half the time taken by a typical event bar.

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The work eg technology did was important in many respects. The ideation and initial bench testing helped us quickly determine whether there was a feasible solution that could be readily applied in the market. The prototype not only proved that the solution actually worked technically, but also it allowed us to demonstrate this to potential customers and get their acceptance that this was a real world solution for them. It was this traction which was key to raising the finance to continue to develop the product and ultimately start to build a commercial fleet.

Nick BeesonEBar

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