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."
Somehow I don't think the denizens of college dorms are the most discerning consumers of pizza in the world. With the complexity, maintenance and hygenic issues I have to admire the engineering challenge, but I'll stick to my take-and-bake.
I was thinking it was a good idea until I got to #1 and #2 of your post, Warren. I would think that those things would be a maintenance nightmare. In addition, how do you contend with spoilage? It can mix the dough and toss it after 24 hours, but what about everything else. It's not like the toppings and all have a finite life that can be calculated.
Wow! What will the Italians come up with next? Painting on ceilings? Who knows? But pizza on demand sounds great, except...
1. Sticky things like this tend to clog up stuff. Just ask the guys who developed the glue machines for ICs.
2. Bugs! Always with the bugs! How do you keep the little critters out of the system without making them part of the protein package?
3. Where, other than college dorms, can you place these? Do you really want to get out of your easy chair, lug your overweight bottom down to the machine, wait 15 minutes and get your small pizza? Or do you just want to stay with your TV, call Jabba the Pizza Hutt, and have it delivered to your door!
4. The size must really be small to fit into this environment. Since size matters when it comes to cost, is it really worth it?
I bet on a Navy ship, it would sell like French fries! I would have camped out in front of it!
I'm not much of a pizza fan, but if I eat it it's got to be fresh. So I agree with your comments about cardboard-tasting frozen pizza. Except lots of people are buying and eating frozen pizza, based on the doubling and tripling of that section in all my local grocery stores' freezer sections over the last few years.
"fresh" pizza in 3 minutes when the ingredients have sat for week? Also, pizza takes 20 minutes to bake properly in a clay oven, not IR. This is disgusting.
It might work on college campus with the drunk college kids late at night who don't care what they eat or even compete with frozen pizzas, but come on, who actually eats a frozen or chain-store made pizza? None of this is pizza in the sense. Only a true hand-made pizza with fresh ingredients and baked properly is pizza, the rest are nothing more than cardboard with ketchup!
I agree this would be a killer app for college campuses but I hope they have a thorough maintenance schedule. Definitely not as clean of an environment inside compared to most vending machines especially if college students keep it running all night.
Really, good frozen pizza can be done much quiker, and it comes out quite good. The secret is that after the thawing and heating in the microwave oven, it has to have the bottom heated for a short while on an oild griddle surface. Just enough to brown the bottom a bit. The hard part is even defrosting and thawing in the microwave oven. That takes some effort. But the heating the bottom makes such a great improvement that it can't be left out.
So if somebody uses my idea they do need to give me credit for it. And some free pizza. Royalty payments are negotiable.
My thoughts exactly. You put one of these things in a dorm lobby, or better still, each dorm floor and you will make back your investment is a heartbeat. As long as it is maintained properly; i.e. refilled, cleaned, repaired, etc .on a regular basis, you will have a real winner. I have no idea as to the most popular pizzas but I suspect cheese, pepperoni and veggie pizzas are the most often purchased. At 2:00 A.M. in the morning with a mechanics final at 8:00, you can bet those all-nighters will at least investigate the possibilities. Also, how about laundry mats, hospital waiting rooms, bus stations, train stations? I can think of several places that would be good candidates for machines such as this. Any place where a person has to wait would be a great candidate. The only downer-we have such a lawless country there would be damage and repairs necessary so the selection of location would be critical to staying in business.
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