water vending machine design help!!

I don’t know if I post this topic in the right place but since you guys mostly hanging around here so…I’ve got some question

I’m doing my thesis project for my degree about drinking water vending machine (the one that you bring your empt bottle to fill the water in)
and one of my concept is the machine will somehow able to sense the capacity of your empty bottle (no matter what its shape/size is) and dispense the accurate amount of water which fit to your bottle perfectly…and that where i’m get stuck because I have to find the reference technology to discuss with my advisor…
so I wonder is there any kind of sensor that can sense the capacity of the empty bottle ?

“so I wonder is there any kind of sensor that can sense the capacity of the empty bottle ?”

No. I don’t think so. You’ll have to find another idea.

Does it have to be automatic? Wouldnt inputing the volume manually be enough?

Youve surely already thought of that, but it would be interesting to hear the reasoning around it.

What about a sensor that goes in to the nozzle and when the water level reaches the sensor it would stop?

This is a typical ID problem. Do your research and you should be able to figure it out. Also don’t over think it. It doesn’t have to be magic. Explore ideas like above, look into electric eyes, think about scales, the list could go on and on. I would spend a night looking in to beverage dispensing and see what’s out there, what has been done, how the fast food guys do it, and how you can adapt their ideas to your product.

You shouldn’t present the problem this way. It makes it sound like you got this idea and now you want a magic technological solution for it to work.
Ask yourself what problem are you tackling. And what is your concept to solve it ? Then think how you materialise it.

If the concept is simply “I don’t want the users to wait for too long while the bootle fills up so my solution is the machines senses the volume then automatically fill it up”. So the user doesn’t have to push “stop”. But what the users will do with this “free” time ? Walk away ?
Maybe the solution for a better user experience is somewhere else. Like, I don’t know, shortening the filling time with a faster flow.
Or realise that most bottles comes in certain sizes. Like half a liter, a liter, 1,5 liter. Having three buttons with the predetermined amounts and a flowstop system could be a solution.

When you figure out exactly what advantage you want to provide the user things will be clearer.

You could make it similar to a gas pump. There is a ball in the nozzle and when its in the tank it floats up thus shutting of the flow.

bngi and coledf you have the same solution apparently. It’s a clever one. But this is water drinking, you don’t want to design a machine were the water is potentially contaminated by touching an external part of the machine.

Imagine the machine in public loos, dirty hands have been touching it for years : do you want to insert this nozzle in your water ?

But I like the cooperative effort going on ! : )

Just spitting out ideas to stimulate the creativity doesnt need immediate filetering from my experience. And disinfection of parts isnt really the biggest problem to solve to my knowledge. Just of the top of my head are Alcohol disinfection, UV-light, Heat etc etc.

But as PackageID said, go do some research in the food industry. Ive worked a couple of summers in a Margarine/cream factory, and there are as many solutions as there are machines. Some are better then others obviously.

Tetra pak’s machines is a great example to have a more thourough look at.

Just some thoughts about this. What if the vending machine is not really the problem? What if the problem actually lies with the bottles? What if all bottles were required to have some sort of barcode/identification system that any machine could read?

vending machine dispenses water into its own reusable bottle. costs x dollars if you buy the water and the bottle or y dollars if you are using the bottle again. size is standard so you dont have to worry about amount of liquid.

another idea

people purchase from a set list of quantities ie 20 oz 12oz 8 oz etc these are standard enough sizes that they should have some idea how big their bottle is, and if they purchase to much then a few oz of water over flow and drains away

just surface scratching low tech ideas but its a start

Yep, can’t have the machine touch the water level.

Laser sensor at the point of water dispensing. Laser tells the machine when the water level gets to the max point (or a specific distance between top of bottle and water level), then shuts off.

Maybe it is brand loyal like the Krupps Heineken mini keg dispenser. Maybe it is a Britta dispenser that only uses Britta designed bottles. You pick the size bottle you have on an interface and it dispenses. This drives a major brand, allows for a bottle that can be washed and reused and solves the size problem.

Like mentioned before…this is scratching the surface and is just one of many solutions.

a laser shut off does not allow for different height water bottles.

as designers we try to use high tech as a crutch (though sometimes needed) sometimes lowtech can be more elegant.

my concept is the machine will somehow able to sense the capacity of your empty bottle (no matter what its shape/size is) and dispense the accurate amount of water which fit to your bottle perfectly

Why? If the reason is that Pat might not know the capacity of the container s/he is bringing along I don’t think the logic holds water (I was dying to say this, sorry). I would argue that most people are familiar with 1/2 Gal. and 1 Gal milk bottles, and 5 Gal. commercial “bottled water” bottles (e.g. Arrowhead, etc). And the capacity of most containers are marked.

Since the consumer has to make the decision to leave home and purchase drinking water (subscription water customers who have their water delivered), why not let them make one more decision; do I want one, or five gallons? If I want three gallons I simply purchase three one gallon units. Keeping in mind that water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon, it is probably safe to say that most folks will limit their purchase to five gallon increments (41.7 pounds) or less .

A question from the devil’s advocate; If the machine is vending water and automatically senses that a container is “full”, how is the metered amount paid for by the consumer? With a gasoline pump one dispenses fuel and generally pays for it with a credit card or cash. In California most gasoline stations require that cash customers prepay some amount and if the vehicle can not take that much fuel the cashier refunds the difference. The cashier is always there, and that is his/her job. But water machines are found everywhere and are not always attended. Even though “water vendors” lease the space where their machines sit, I’m not sure a Store Manager is going to want to spend “his” time (or the salaries of his employees) dealing with someone else’s business (making change).

RFID tag embedded in the bottle. Bottle now ‘interacts’ with the kiosk/dispenser…can show how many times bottle has been filled, how many plastic water bottles you’ve saved, the list goes on and on…

Here in Finland (it’s the same in Sweden and probably other countries) all supermarkets have automatic bottle recycling machines (you get money back according to the type of bottle. The machine reads the barcode, knows what was inside the bottle and what material it’s made from, and refunds the corresponding value. So one solution would be to read the barcode and weigh the bottle - the barcode would tell the capacity and the material (plastic or glass) of the bottle which would then make it easy to calculate how much water remains inside, then just enough water would be dispensed to refill the bottle.

Google “liquid level detection”.

There are hundreds of off-the-shelf devices that don’t touch the liquid - ultrasonic, infra-red, capacitive.

And if you use a disposable, you can touch the water with the sensor. It is more wasteful, but most likely cheaper. Look into it and let us know.

I remember using those while I was studying abroad in Copenhagen. I love that idea and wish we had something similar here in the US.

I was thinking this type of identification could be put into the molding process of the bottles. That way if you lose/remove the label on the bottle then you could still have a permanent type of identification that wouldn’t cost too much. I like the idea of using an RFID, but not sure about the cost factor.

How about a quick laser of the barcode in the center of the material? Like those 3d lasered blocks of tackiness.

Probably not very costeffective, but could be awesome, if it also included the table of contents.

Guess it wouldnt work on plastics though…

am I missing something? why does it need to be so difficult? You are basically making a water cooler, right? there are thousands of examples of these out there… what makes it different? what’s the problem you are trying to solve?

Why the need to have it stop automagically? Why can’t you start and stop it when you you want like a normal water cooler with some sort of a tap or spigot? It seems to me any sort of auto fill is going to cause more problems than it solves. You couldn’t use non-standard bottles, or ones without barcodes, fill a mug, or fill a bottle half way…

is there something wrong with a normal type of tap that everyone knows how to use? there is something to be said I think for making it as simple as possible, not the most complex. If anything maybe just a auto IR sensor like on a bathroom sink, so it fills when your bottle is under and stops after… of a foot pedal, button, or tap…