Vending machines have become so pervasive that we almost don’t notice them anymore.
Yet they are becoming ever more sophisticated in their operation.
At one time, it was enough for a machine to deliver a packaged item in exchange for a few coins. But today, vending machines offer much more personalized service. For example, coffee vending machines now grind beans and brew fresh coffee for each customer. They then add toppings, offer a choice of hot or cold drinks and automatically place a lid on the cup. Behind those functions: a blend of mechanical, control, and electronic components.
“Simply inserting money to get a product is nothing special anymore,” says Tetsuo Suzuki, an engineering manager with Fuji Electric Retail Systems, the leading vending machine manufacturer in Japan, a country famous for the number and variety of these unmanned merchants. “A company couldn’t survive in this competitive market by providing functionality that simple.”
Fuji Electric Retail Systems looks at each new vending machine as a platform, a master design that may require modification for each individual customer and that customer’s merchandising needs. Included in its product lines are machines that confirm age for restricted products and thwart crime with slider locks and bar stoppers.
But developing a process for easily customized machines wasn’t easy. At one time, the company tried to produce product drawings automatically by creating a database of parameters for each model. However, designs often were completed before the database rules could be defined, and the database failed to keep up with the development cycle.
Next, the company turned to concurrent engineering and 3D design. The company began searching for a 3D CAD package that could meet these needs:
After reviewing several packages, the company chose CoCreate’s OneSpace Designer as its 3D design platform. “With OneSpace Designer Modeling, we design freely, and changes are easy to make,” says Suzuki. “Furthermore, it takes only three days for a new user to learn the basics of the software.”
With Designer Modeling, Fuji moved to a complete 3D design environment that included analysis and virtual prototyping. As a result, the company cites several improvements in the development processes:
Most important of all, the move to 3D CAD software brought greater overall speed and flexibility to Fuji Electric Retail Systems’ design process, which has helped the company to more easily configure designs for each customer. “To stay competitive, we need to adapt quickly to changing industry needs,” says Suzuki. “Designer Modeling best suits our model for success.”