Vending Machines for Ice Cream
Automation solution allows the realization of a deep-frozen vending machine with a shopping cart function, digital information fields for allergens and ingredients, flexible payment systems and touch control surfaces
As the summers get hotter, you long to cool off, for example with a delicious ice cream. While digitization is finding its way almost everywhere in everyday life, many ice cream vending machines look like they are from the last century: you can only pay with coins and for each ice cream individually. With a family of four, that can take a while. So the first ice cream melts away when the last one falls into the dispenser. And when the snake behind you grumbles, it becomes clear that there should be a modern alternative.
In Germany, around 1.5 million vending machines are in operation, mainly installed at motorway service stations, swimming pools, amusement parks or airports, many of which are serviced by the company Seco Kältetechnik, which was founded in Bochum in 1993. What began as a planning office for large refrigeration systems quickly developed into a full service in all areas of refrigeration technology. In Germany and Austria, customers from the food retail trade, discount stores, industry and manufacturers of refrigerated cabinets turn to Seco. The Seco manufactory was founded for this purpose and the product launch of the "old" machines could begin after 1.5 years of development with the high-end vending machine Secomat IC One Indoor. For the first time there is now a frozen vending machine with a shopping cart function, digital information fields for allergens and ingredients, flexible payment systems (e.g. EC, credit card, RFID or ApplePay) and touch control surfaces on which videos or advertising are integrated. Price and product changes can be made online. "The Secomat IC One is also socially compatible," explains Sabine Nicole Delimèle, who has taken over the management of international sales. Visually impaired people can use Braille to operate the ice machine without help. Small amounts of propane as a refrigerant ensure green, flexible installation in different places. An eye-catcher is above all the inner life, which can be seen through a large transparent disk. Because after the respective ice cream has been selected, a robot kinematics moves smoothly inside, opens the deep freezer, removes the ice cream and places it in the output compartment.
Modular construction kit allows "infinite" possibilities
This central robot kinematics comes from igus and is called Apiro. The term is based on the Greek word for infinite, since the modular construction kit allows the realization of almost infinite robotic possibilities. The focus is on tribologically optimized worm gears. The corrosion-free and chemical-resistant high-performance plastics ensure high stability, low weight, durability and freedom from maintenance. The joints of the Apiro modular system are connected via a multifunctional aluminum profile. It allows drive shafts to pass through a center cavity, taking advantage of the inverted worm gear. The continuous aluminum profile rotates through the gearbox, which makes it ideal for use in robotics and rotary applications. With the worm gear with linear motion, the aluminum profile can move linearly through the gear or the gear moves on the linear profile. All worm gears are also particularly low-backlash. The multifunction profile also offers the user the option of serially connecting the various gearboxes in the Drygear Apiro series. Parallel articulations are also possible by placing several Apiro joints next to each other. This results in countless possible combinations to automate various applications, such as removing ice in the Secomat IC One. "This flexibility was one of the reasons why we used the Apiro modular system in the development process," remembers Frank Kuhn, Managing Director of Seco Manufaktur. “First we thought of a Scara robot. However, it quickly turned out that the error rate is quite high over time if this structure is not in a factory and can be constantly maintained. However, reduced maintenance intervals and longevity were particularly important to us.” Various Apiro kinematics were tried out in the development process together with the experts from igus until the result was finally clear. In addition to the 3-axis portal, two energy chains from the E2 series and Chainflex cables, also from igus, are used in the final complete system. “It is not only technically optimal, but also optically. Because the iron removal takes place in the field of vision, we didn't want a "cool" industrial solution. Rather, it should also be a visually appealing system and make the user curious.”
Planned: outdoor version, hot drinks and soups
Seco Kältemanufaktur has also aroused the curiosity of numerous international ice cream suppliers. Because the Secomat IC One also offers advantages for providers and operators. Thanks to a smart web connection, the displays can be fed with information remotely or good ice cream flavors can be evaluated. The data generated makes it much easier to plan orders, and new ice cream flavors and offers can be tested at the same time. For Frank Kuhn, the next development step is already clear: "In addition to this indoor version, we are already working on an outdoor version of the Secomat IC One." And for the colder days, a variant is planned that can serve hot drinks or soups. "In the long term, it's even conceivable that we could combine charging stations and vending machines so that when an e-car is charging, you can shorten the waiting time with a cool ice cream or hot soup."
Andrej Schmidt, Industry Manager Vending Machines, Igus