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This state-of-the-art robot bartender required the latest in robotic design and development technologies to bring to life.
Yanu, the fully autonomous bartending robot, looks like something out of a science fiction movie. Standing at nearly 10 feet tall, the assembly is large, cylindrical and sleek. On its countertop are several touchscreens that display drink choices, ranging from martinis to old fashioneds. As soon as you input your order on a screen, Yanu’s single robotic arm springs to life. It grabs a glass and swivels 180 degrees to the ice dispenser. Next, the arm raises the glass, navigating it along a series of ingredient dispensers that hang from the ceiling. After moving through the correct combination, the arm lowers itself and hands you a finished drink.
Though this robotic feat is impressive enough, mixology is just the beginning. In addition to making drinks, Yanu — which is powered by artificial intelligence — handles credit card and mobile payments, verifies a client’s drinking age and communicates with patrons, whether suggesting a drink or cracking a joke. Capable of making up to 100 drinks in one hour and up to 1,500 cocktails in a single load, Yanu is poised to revolutionize the food and beverage industry.
This robot is the brainchild of Alan Adojaan, CEO and founder of YANU, an Estonia-based robotics company. Despite the fact that the company’s first product is a highly sophisticated service robot, Adojaan’s background is in hospitality, not robotics. As anyone in food service or bartending can tell you, the industry has its fair share of challenges, especially now. Examples include a high staff turnover rate, labor shortages, high recurring expenses and an emerging need for contactless food and beverage service.
“It was a constant struggle to keep the business going,” Adojaan reflects. “On an especially busy night, I realized something had to change. Soon after, I had the idea to develop a robotic solution.”
Sophisticated Robots Require Sophisticated Design Tools
Within four years, Adojaan and his team of designers and engineers transformed Yanu from a single idea to multiple prototypes. Unlike other robotic bartenders on the market, Adojaan’s solution is compact and mobile, able to be collapsed into a 20-foot shipping container for transport. Yanu can also communicate with patrons and is fully autonomous; other bartending bots are non-communicative, only semi-autonomous and require weeks to set up. In addition to its plug-and-play nature, Yanu is cloud-based, easy to operate, clean and refill and comes with apps for administration, monitoring and drink ordering.
Making such an advanced robot a reality — especially when “no one took me seriously at first,” Adojaan says — required the latest in robotics design technology and computer-aided design (CAD) software. For these reasons, Adojaan and his team designed and developed Yanu using Solid Edge®, Siemens’ ecosystem of sophisticated software tools that address all aspects of the product design and development process including mechanical and electrical design, simulation, data management and more. Whereas designing complex, intelligent robotic systems can slow the product development process, Solid Edge enabled the YANU team to get its revolutionary bartending bot to market quickly — all while overcoming many of the typical pitfalls that can affect the design process for new products.
According to YANU industrial designer Ken Ruut, the design and engineering team utilized the following Solid Edge tools and capabilities to make Adojaan’s vision a reality:
Sheet metal design. Unlike other CAD programs, Solid Edge streamlines the sheet metal product development process. It includes sheet metal-specific features like emboss, dimple, bead, multi-edge and contour flanges, straight brake and etch, as well as applications for analysis and numerical control programming to reduce design time. “The sheet metal tools allowed us to calculate component surfaces,” Ruut explains. “We could then send the results directly to the CNC machines, which was really helpful.”
Data management. Solid Edge incorporates rich data management functionality, enabling budding companies like YANU to work efficiently with their growing number of CAD files. It also lets users review and edit files and perform revision and release operations on parts, assemblies and drawings. “Data management is our friend,” Ruut says. “We need to keep an eye on all moving parts to ensure everything is ordered on time, and Solid Edge lets us do that easily.”
3D printing. “We used 3D printing a lot for prototyping purposes, and Solid Edge has great tools that support those goals,” Ruut says. For example, using topology optimization, the software allows designers to create unique shapes that are well-suited for 3D printing. It also integrates computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) tools for creating and updating tool paths associated with CAD models. And finally, it supports the output of models to in-house 3D printers and external additive manufacturing services.
KeyShot rendering engine. Solid Edge includes KeyShot®, a real-time 3D rendering and animation software that generates realistic images of product designs for internal or external use. “We used the KeyShot engine a lot to get a better sense of what we were designing,” Ruut says. “It was a breeze to use, and it gave us realistic, immersive renderings of Yanu — complete with lights and reflections.” Thanks to this integration, designers like Ruut can launch KeyShot directly from the Solid Edge interface. They can also automatically send designs and push any changes to KeyShot without losing any settings.
Electrical routing. Solid Edge features an electrical routing module that supports the creation, routing and organization of wires, cables and bundles in mechanical assemblies. “We take advantage of this tool to establish correct wire lengths when routing the wires through clips and channels,” Ruut says. In addition to the routing tool, which allows designers to automatically route wires around complex 3D models, Solid Edge includes other tools that address other aspects of the electromechanical design process. For example, it has a wiring design module for creating wiring diagrams and generating service documentation, as well as a harness design module for designing harnesses and form boards.
A Single Design Platform
Thanks to these software capabilities, Solid Edge unlocked many benefits for the YANU team, such as bridging the gap between the designers that worked on Yanu’s outward appearance and the engineers that worked on the robot’s internal mechanics. According to Adojaan, getting the designers and engineers on the same page wasn’t always easy. “The designers wanted things to look good while the engineers championed functionality,” he explains. “Solid Edge enabled us to overcome these issues, as it reconciles both within its immersive design environment.”
Solid Edge also provided the YANU team with a single platform for all its product development data, eliminating many of the inconsistencies that inevitably result when different people in different cities are working on various aspects of the same robotic design. “At one point, Yanu’s interior mechanical parts were being designed in Solid Edge, while its exterior bells and whistles — many of which are handmade — were being built in other programs,” Adojaan says. “By the time we assembled our first prototype, we realized some things didn’t match. Last year, we decided to bring everything into Solid Edge, and it’s made a world of difference in terms of creating a single, frictionless workflow.”
Coming to a Bar Near You
By eliminating design inconsistencies and streamlining the robotic development process, Solid Edge enabled Adojaan to bring his bartending robot to market quickly. “I could even start selling Yanu to clients before we had one built,” he says. “This ability is critical for startups and other small companies, as it helps us reach out to clients for early feedback, test the market and get our products out faster.”
A testament to his passion for and belief in Solid Edge, YANU is a member of Solid Edge for Startups, a program that provides early-stage companies with free access to Solid Edge for a year. Adojaan has even spoken at Solid Edge University events, which give users a first-hand look at some of the software’s latest features and functionality. “Solid Edge helped us balance innovation and functionality in creating Yanu,” Adojaan says. “Without it, we’d be in trouble.”
Sponsored By Solid Edge from Siemens