Print a drink, 3D print the inside of a cocktail, and develop a smaller machine for business
We’ve seen 3D printers create cake decorations, personalized vitamins, and even farmed beef. And now thanks to Print a Drink’s robot, we have seen custom designs printed inside a cocktail. You might think that such drinking witchcraft would be impossible. I mean, how can a design hang and hold its shape other than a shot of jello? It turns out that all it takes is the right drink, the right droplet, and the precision of a robotic arm.
Based in Austria, Print a Drink has actually been around for three years. It was started by Benjamin Greimel as a university research project. Since then, Print a Drink has created two working robots (one in the United States and one in Europe) that, until the pandemic, traveled to special events and conferences by printing custom designs inside. drinks at parties and others.
So how does it work? Print a Drink uses a robotic arm to which a custom print head is attached. The robot uses a glass needle to inject a food grade oil-based liquid into a drink. The drink itself must be less than 40 percent alcohol and cannot be a forehand of something like vodka or whiskey, as the injected beads will not hold and float to the surface. Greimel explained to me via video chat this week that the combination of liquid density, temperature, and robotic movement allows designs to last around 10 minutes before dissipating.
Coordinating all of these puzzle pieces is complicated to say the least. In addition to setting up the robot at an event and making it work, there are specific requirements for the drinks that can be used, and the designs must be uploaded to the robot. In addition, there are safety concerns because the robotic arm moves quite quickly. For all of these reasons, Print a Drink’s rents the robot ($ 2,500 to $ 5,000, depending on the event) and does not sell it directly. In addition to all of the above complications, personnel should be properly trained in the use of the machine, and there is a good chance that those using the devices will not be roboticists capable of troubleshooting.
To make Print a Drink more accessible, Greimel and his partner (the only two people in the company) developed a smaller, self-contained version of the robot that is roughly the size of a countertop coffee machine. But don’t expect a mainstream version for your next backyard night. This smaller version is still complicated and still requires training. The company therefore targets large companies like Disney or a hotel chain like Hilton where it could be installed and used for special events or promotions. Greimel said the first prototype of this smaller Print a Drink will be available next week.
Although more specialized, Print a Drink is part of a larger automation movement going on with alcohol right now. Along with robot-powered bars like Glacierfire, we’re also seeing beverage vending machines from Rotender and Celia starting to hit the market. However, it’s not hard to see all of these types of robots working in tandem, with a robot barman making standard cocktails, while Print a Drink prints custom drink specials for special occasions. We will drink to that.