Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge was building a hygienic machine. "All of the parts come in contact with the elements," Torghele said. "We had to find technical solutions to guarantee" that the food would be safe.
The patented solutions include a dough mixer that prevents accumulation of material in its drum and in adjoining metering chambers. "He thought of everything," Rammers said. "If the machine doesn't sell a pizza for 24 hours, the timer tells it to mix the dough, and then the machine throws it away in a trash bin."
Like most current day vending machines, the Let's Pizza is Internet-enabled. Using a microcontroller and a multitude of specialized software algorithms, it can read information from its 40 onboard sensors and communicate with the outside world. "When it's almost empty, the machine sends a signal to your phone or your laptop that it needs to be refilled," Rammers said. Each machine holds enough ingredients for about 200 pizzas.
The machine has been available in Europe since 2009. A1 Concepts will set up its first US Let's Pizza in Atlanta in late August. The company is working on a plan for machines to be assembled by an American partner.
Competing machines have used microwaves to heat up frozen pizzas, but Rammers said he wouldn't be surprised if the Let's Pizza's success spawns imitators. "Other people are sure to try to build one after they see this. But right now, this is the only one of its kind."
This is a great idea and application. I could see these being located next to the Redbox machines that seem to be in every shopping plaza all of a sudden. You could get a movie and a pizza any time you want.
really, this is the best thing ive heard about in a long time.
i do like the idea of a window so you can see it being made, though. about ten years ago, i was at a Kinko's that had a coffee vending machine. you selected what you wanted, and in a window, you saw it grind whole coffee beans, dump in onto a filter that was part of a large roll, and then hot water poured right through it into your cup at the bottom. i never would have known this thing was brewing fresh-gound coffee, id have guessed it was instant. it was totally worth it just for the experience, but it was good coffee tooo.
It's a pretty interesting machine and there are certainly some airports that I've been to where this would have been a great option. There seems to be a fair amount of waste, though, since each item is individually wrapped.
The new composites manufacturing innovation center is intended to be a source of grand challenges for industry, like the kind that got us to the moon under JFK. These aren't the words its new CEO Craig Blue used, but that's the idea and the vision behind the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).
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