Chill-N Milk Dispensing Station – 2022
Step into a Chill-N ice cream shop and it immediately feels like you’re standing in a state-of-the-art science lab. Clouds of vapor pour out from all the shiny equipment, and a large periodic table of flavors fills the wall. Place an order at the counter and concoct your custom ice cream combination of milk type, flavor, and mix-ins. Then your liquid mixture is flash frozen into ice cream right before your eyes with liquid nitrogen!
Now expanding with more shops, Chill-N are looking for ways to streamline their ice cream making process. They tasked our team at Propulsion with designing an automated milk dispensing station that would be faster, more repeatable, and less susceptible to spillage compared to their current process of pouring milk by hand.
We leaned on our engineering, coding, electronics, and industrial design skills to design a platform that uses automated computer control to dispense up to six different types of milk in the exact amount required.
To complement Chill-N’s science lab aesthetic, we made the enclosure of the dispenser from stainless steel sheet metal, with machined metal and plastic, molded plastic, and bent tube parts for the functional elements of the system.
To meet the requirements of a rapid development and low production volumes we chose to use off-the-shelf Raspberry Pi boards to control the system. Here’s how it works: Using the touchscreen, the Chill-N employee inputs the cup size and type of milk the customer ordered. Next, the station turns on the pump that corresponds with the milk that was ordered and dispenses the milk into a mixing bowl. The mixing bowl sits on a load cell sensor (a type of scale), which tells the Raspberry Pi how much milk has been dispensed. Once the correct weight of milk has been reached the Pi shuts off the pump.
Based on preliminary component selection and wiring diagrams that Chill-N provided, we fleshed out the electronics design of the dispensing station and wrote Python code so we could control the Raspberry Pi boards and test our prototype.
In the future, Chill-N plans to introduce a barcode system to further streamline the ordering process. Each ice cream cup will have a unique barcode that is assigned to a customer’s specific order. When the employee brings the cup over to the dispensing station and scans the barcode with the scanner that we’ve designed in the unit, the system will know what kind of milk the customer has ordered and what size of ice cream, dispensing the required amount of milk into the mixing bowl automatically.
After building the first milk dispensing station, we created a final wiring diagram, assembly drawings, and installation drawings so Chill-N can build and install dispensing stations in the future.