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The Perfect Pint - A Beer Pouring Robot

Contact Information

Country: United Kingdom

Year Submitted: 2017

University: University of Leeds

List of Team Members (with year of graduation): James Dickinson (2017), Joey Suburt (2017), James Ash (2017), Chris Hayley (2017), Amirah Nabilah (2017)

Faculty Advisers: Dr Andrew Jackson, Professor Robert Richardson

Industrial Partners: Quality Bearings Online (http://www.qualitybearingsonline.com), Saltaire Brewery (http://saltairebrewery.co.uk)

Main Contact Email Address: A.E.Jackson@leeds.ac.uk

 

 

***Media Coverage***

The Perfect Pint project has recently featured in:

BBC Online & BBC Look North (Facebook Link)

The Mail Online

The Mirror Online

BBC Radio Leeds

Made in Leeds TV

 

 

 

 

The robot in action

 

 

 

3.jpg

Competing with Humans

 

Project Information

Title: The Perfect Pint: A Beer Pouring Robot

Description:   Who can pull the perfect pint of ale? A robot, or a human? We want to find out.

Products:

NI Software:  

 

 

LabVIEW 2015, LabVIEW Real-Time Module, LabVIEW FPGA Module, NI LabVIEW Control and Simulation Module, LabVIEW SoftMotion Module, NI Vision 2015, LabVIEW compactRIO 16

 

NI Hardware:          

NI cRIO-9024, NI cRIO-9114, 2x NI 9505, NI 9215, NI 9403

 

Other:

2x Industrial Devices IDM3 300mm 45mm/s Linear Actuators, Bourns 100mm Linear Slide Potentiometer,  TE Connectivity 1.5Kg Compression Load Cell,  Logitech C920 HD Camera

 

The Challenge:

Millions of pints of beer are poured across the globe every single day. Bar staff are rushed off their feet satisfying the needs and increasingly pretentious requests of the beer drinking general public who accept nothing less than perfection in modern day society.

 

In 2016, however, a bearing distributor from the U.K, known as Quality Bearings Online, realised that an increasing number of robots are replicating and improving upon such tedious human tasks every day. They sought assistance from experts at The University of Leeds and Saltaire Brewery and made a connection which would alter the future of ale pouring forever...

 

The Solution:

A robot, capable of consistently pouring a perfect pint of ale, could reduce the effort of bar staff worldwide whilst satisfying the needs of every ale connoisseur and beer drinker. However, can a machine really beat the humans when it comes to their beloved beer? The only way to find out is to introduce some competition to the scenario and battle head to head. Therefore, in the middle of June, man and machine came together to see who could pour the greatest pint of ale!

 

The Task: Consistently pour the best pint of Saltaire Blonde ale.

The Robot: Built by a group of 5 students at the University of Leeds and powered by National Instruments technology.

The Human: One of Saltaire Brewery's finest staff members.

 

From this, The Perfect Pint project was born, set out with the task of designing and building a robot capable of pouring the perfect pint of ale. Whilst this appears to be a very specific task or problem, the project itself has been incredibly varied involving aspects of: mechanical design, dynamics and kinematics calculations and modelling, fluid dynamics (including computational fluid dynamics simulations), motion capture, and system control.

 

 

The Robot

Labelled robot.png

Final Robot Design

 

The robot was built using two linear actuators; one pulling an ale tap handle and the other raising and lowering a pint glass. In addition to this, it uses a linear potentiometer for closed-loop feedback control of the handle actuator as well as a load cell for sensing the presence of pint glasses and a high definition camera for measuring how much beer has been poured and the thickness of the foam head. It uses a touch screen user interface built into the back of the robot and LED indicators offering an attractive status update on the pint pouring process.

The robot was initially designed by imitating a human bartender using modern motion capture equipment to gather kinematic data. A computational fluid dynamics (CFD) package was then used to assess how varying parameters within the pint pouring process affected the formation of foam head. These results helped to optimise the robot, ensuring that every pint was poured perfectly with no wastage.

 

Motion Capture.jpg

The camera used for motion capture analysis

 

 

 

A computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation of the pint pouring process

 

 

 

Using LabVIEW

At the heart of the project was an array of National Instruments technology; particularly LabVIEW. The simple graphical-based development environment allowed the robot’s control structure and user interface to be developed quickly, allowing more time to be spent developing and optimising the rest of the robot. It interfaced easily with the National Instruments hardware using pre-built functions for many tasks such as Input/Output (I/O) and proportional, integral, derivative (PID) control. The control structure itself was split up into 3 sections, each performing a different task and utilising a different processing platform:

 

Field programmable gate array (FPGA)

The NI compactRIO’s FPGA chip was used for I/O such as receiving sensor data and controlling the actuators, performing the robot’s kinematic calculations, and carrying out closed-loop PID control of the pump handle; all with incredible speed.

Real-Time Host (RT)

The compactRIO’s real-time processor was used to house the robot’s main control loop (a state-machine) which performed the handle extension and retraction procedures and raised/lowered the pint glass when necessary. The RT host was also used as a bridge between the Graphical user interface (GUI) and the FPGA program

Windows Host

Finally, a Windows laptop hosted the GUI as well as machine vision used to measure the amount of beer poured. The machine vision used LabVIEW’s vision toolkit to take a snapshot near the end of the beer pouring process and adjust the pour accordingly.

 

Systems Diagram.png

 

System connection diagram

 

 

 

 

Host_Screen.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laptop Graphical User Interface

 

 

 

 

 

Touch_Screen.png

Touch Screen Graphical User Interface

 

 

The Result:

On competition day the robot performed excellently; consistently pouring perfect pint after perfect pint in front of the cameras and audience. The barman put up a good fight, beating the robot in speed, but was no match for the zero wastage and pristine head that machine could deliver.

Comments
Active Participant RER
Active Participant

Woohoo! Robots and Beer - two of my passions combined in one glorious project. I cant wait to read more guys! Keep up the great work

Rich Roberts
Senior Marketing Engineer, National Instruments
Connect on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richard-roberts-4176a27b/
Member AndrewElite
Member

Really great project and a great project outcome, well done. Does indeed pull a perfect pint.

Member Martin_Levesley
Member

Not many projects get national press AND BBC coverage! Well done, and the fact your high profile test took place very publicly during the UK National Robotics Week makes it even better. Great project with great industrial support!!! And more press coverage to come I hear!!

 

Now will it also be on duty to serve out coffee and pain killers???

Active Participant RER
Active Participant

Jimbronze? What were the results of the 'pour-off' with the headbrewer at Saltaire? I hear that you guys got some great media coverage for the project.

TOP TIP:  I would highly recommend that you post links to the media coverage in your submission!

Rich Roberts
Senior Marketing Engineer, National Instruments
Connect on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richard-roberts-4176a27b/
Contributors