For those of you who received one of our print 2010 calendars, you saw this bar dispenser, aka a “bar gun”, from Schroeder America gracing the month of January. All of the images can be seen in our Global Image Gallery. The “Best in Class” are the 12 who appear on the print edition.
Now if you were a kid like me who grew up in a household where soda was a special treat, you probably like the idea of a gun that shoots a near endless supply of the sweet juices. If you’re a designer or engineer, you’d probably like to know a little more about this design.
Deborah Absalon from Schroeder America was kind enough to fill us in.
Q: How did the ICON bar gun get its name?
A: The term “Bar gun” is a common reference in the industry. We made several improvements to the industry standard and wanted to give our product its own name to differentiate it. Our Marketing department chose the name “ICON” to represent a new image in bar gun technology.
Q: Who are your primary customers and what is most important to them in this product?
A: Our primary customers are Coca-Cola and Pepsi. They have their own red and blue bar guns, respectively. The black ICON Bar Gun is primarily sold to “neutral” bars and restaurants, primarily through distributors.
Q: Was this a new design or redesign?
A: The ICON is a new product for us – we are in fact a new company, only 3 years old. The design is actually a redesign of the existing industry standard.
Q: What were the design challenges you faced? How did you address them?
A: We wanted to make a dispenser that was more reliable, easier to service, and most importantly had better ratio control (for a more accurately mixed, better tasting drink). In order to do so, we had to completely redesign the manifold/valve system, incorporating our flow controls and adding a positive shutoff to the system. We redesigned the handle itself to allow greater flow, used better materials for durability, and developed a manufacturing process to ensure greater accuracy in machining. The biggest challenge was identifying the negative aspects of our competitors product, while incorporating designs changes into our product that our customers were asking for, thus giving the “ICON” a competitive advantage in the market place.
Q: Tell me about the complexity of a design like this. How difficult is it to create one product that outputs multiple different liquids? How many designers worked on this gun?
A: The design is surprisingly complex. You have many places – from nozzle, through the handle, the sheath, flow controls, and shutoff assembly – where fluids can leak. In a restaurant or bar, a leak equals disaster. Also, there are strict NSF requirements for any material coming in contact with water/soda. We were a brand new company, with a design team of 3 people – myself, our main engineer David Santy, and our company founder Jud Schroeder. We relied very heavily on our VP of Manufacturing, Sam Brown, and his manufacturing personnel to help us develop the manufacturing processes concurrently with our ongoing design.
Q: Once you complete the design, where does it go from there?
A: It’s not as simple as completing the design and then sending it off to manufacturing. Being a startup company, it was imperative to bring a product to market as quickly as possible. So design and manufacturing really had to be concurrent processes. The handle laminates were designed in NX, programmed in NX Machining, and sent to our Mazak milling machines. While manufacturing was working out how best to bond the laminates, we were designing other aspects of the bar gun, including over 80 plastic parts. We used SLA and machined parts directly from NX to prototype. So while our plastic parts tools were being made, we were working out manufacturing processes, including pressure testing devices, etc.
Q: Do you test these guns out at your office? Is there an endless supply of soda and water? And be honest, do you ever have a drink fight (vs. food fight) with these guns ?
A: Yes, we do test the bar guns at our facility. In addition to using pressure decay testing throughout the manufacturing process, we perform a check on the final assembly using pressure decay testing as well as pressurized water testing to ensure there are no leaks in the system. The final step of the process includes a sanitization cycle using chlorinated fluids, which are blown out before being placed into inventory.
Q: Anything else you think might be of interest to other design engineers about the gun or other work Schroeder does?
A: We have 3 horizontal Mazak milling centers, 2 vertical Mazak milling centers, 1 vertical Hurco CNC milling machine, all equipped with automated tool changers. We also have 3 Cincinnati molding presses, ranging between 55 tons and 138 tons. We have a Dukane high output ultrasonic welder, a Dukane spin welder, specially designed SoftTest equipment for valve testing, a specially built Printex pad printer, and a specially built Acme micro-welder for parts assembly. Lastly, we have the latest technology in evacuation/refrigerant charging equipment.
We use rendered images heavily in the early design phase of a product to make sure the customer is getting the look they want. NX Shape Studio is a must-have there.
Lastly, there definitely is a continuous supply of water/soda, as we’re always testing some new process, material, or configuration. We also produce a “Bubbler” – think lemonade at Chik-Fil-A (fast food restaurant) – and a couple of those are usually set up and running as well. Did I mention the 29 degree counter top beer unit? I’m just waiting for a chance to design a Margarita machine!
Thanks Deborah for taking the time to answer some questions.
Stay tuned for n
ext month’s model of the month. In the meantime, visit the other design contest images in the “Special Selections” and “Images from Around the World” galleries.
if you want your own print copy of the calendar, you can request one here (if you’re in the Americas). If you’re in Europe or Asia Pacific, leave a comment and we’ll get you in contact with the right person.